PostLibyan, I, and the other Minions have an ongoing debate:
which is more important to our enjoyment of a band, the lyrics
or the music? Some Minions say that ultimately the riff a band
plays determines whether or not a song is good; others claim
that the lyrics are their focal point - and without intelligent
words, even the best melody fails. Me? I fall somewhere in the
middle. Every now and then I run across a band that focuses
on only one of these elements and manages to pull it off. The
Purkinje Shift used to do it for me. I never cared that they
didn't have a vocalist; the music was so compelling that a voice
would have only distracted from their sound. Another such band
is Big Lazy.
Hailing from Brooklyn, Big Lazy is a three piece combo consisting
primarily of percussion, echo-y guitar, and stand up bass. I'd
never heard of them when a friend told me I should go see them
in concert. I was skeptical, but I still made my way to a dank
club to see what the fuss was about. And I have to say that
they took my breath away that night. Playing a dark reverbed
proto-jazz/blues, Big Lazy were the perfect soundtrack to a
David Lynch film, a movie perhaps shot in black and white set
in the Desert Southwest in a miraculous rain storm.
On the strength of that performance, I bought this album.
From the beginning notes of the first song, Skinless Boneless,
Big Lazy invokes their live performance. The reverbed lyricism
of the guitar riff is carried along by the slinky bass and even
more echoey drums. It's the type of music that seems simple
on the surface, but upon closer examination, you realize there
there is a lot of careful construction that went into the interplay
of the three instruments, most particularly in the way the emphasis
within slides from musician to musician, so that there is no
clear lead. It's an impressive beginning that is carried through
to the next song.
However, just when I think I've got this music completely figured
out, they move into the third song: Just Plain Scared.
This song begins with what sounds like a full string quartet
playing what could be a rapid classical piece (damn me for not
paying closer attention to music teachers when they taught me
the correct terms!) before the guitar comes in with full delay
to pick up the melody. After a bit, the quartet fades out and
the bowed bass picks up the feel, before the entire band moves
into a more raunchy rockabilly riff. It's a great tour de force
that suggests the variety in genre that the band could pursue.
Still it's back to the same haunted desert sound on the next
couple of songs before the album hits its odd point: Roam/Sight
Unseen. This piece starts off sounding like an instrumental
Pixies outtake (with what sounds like a choir in the background
holding the melody, instead of the guitar). After about two
minutes of this upbeat Indie rock, the band slows down and becomes
quiet, and then finally ends by re-adding what sounds like a
cello. It sounds strange, but it actually works.
I guess that's the over-arching theme of the album: when I
try to describe what it sounds like, it's hard to pin it down.
One song may have a reggae beat; another may have a tinkling
keyboard. One song sounds like someone gave some ratty old instruments
to a jazz group and said, "make do with this!" And another sounds
like it could be at home on a straight Indie rock compilation.
Yet despite the fact that the music is all over the place, it's
well performed and each song is coherent within itself. Furthermore,
all the reverb and delay on that guitar marks each song as coming
from the same band.
So I guess I would end by saying that Big Lazy
is a good album -- not quite as earth shattering as their live
performance, but good nevertheless, especially if you like more
instrumental music. And although I'd personally like more cohesion
across the album, I suspect the disjointed nature is more a
reflection on the magnitude of the band's skill as opposed to