Big Wreck‘s early classics, most particularly The Oaf and That Song, were a huge staple on the radio when I was young. The latter especially stuck in my head as a kid. It’s easily one of the best all around rock songs to have come out in the 90’s. Some years ago, around the time of Big Wreck’s reunion, I decided to get more in to the band, starting from the beginning of course. I was met with a bit of disappointment. Well I wasn’t so disappointed as I was underwhelmed. This kind of cooled down my desire to get more in to the band. That is, until late last year when One Good Piece of Me from their then upcoming (now just over a month old) album Grace Street started playing on the radio.
There were other moments when I came close to getting more in to Big Wreck. Ghosts (from the 2014 album of the same name) really had me tempted, but I never truly went for that temptation. No, it was this new leading single that – a song which I defy any other band to top this year – that hooked me right in. That song (pun actually not intended) which no matter how many times I hear it – and it’s been on the radio a LOT – I’ll never seem to grow tired of it. Much like That Song did two decades ago.
It doesn’t end there. It doesn’t even technically start there. One Good Piece of Me is Grace Street‘s second track. The opening track It Comes as No Surprise, much like the leading single, has more magical melodies that catch the ear drum. This song is more centred on Ian Thornley‘s vocals, as opposed to One Good Piece of Me’s blend of perfect melodies and just the most excellent upbeat guitar riff to go with it.
Big Wreck have never shied away from long songs, and they’ve become more and more confident about making songs of such lengths exceeding the five minute mark. It got to the point where the Ghosts album’s thirteen tracks all added up to making the album just shy of seventy-minutes in length. That didn’t change much with Grace Street which is only a bit shorter in total length and only has a handful of songs under five minutes. That includes the two songs I’ve already mentioned from the album.
The other, let’s call them short songs, on Grace Street include Tomorrow Down, which is another song heavily carried by Ian Thornley’s great ability to come up with hooky vocal melodies. You Don’t Even Know has a fun beat that makes it stand out as well. The most interesting of these songs is the shortest one The Receiving End. This song predominantly features Ian on one of his unique chordophones, I can’t tell if it’s a banjo or mandolin, with a few percussions heard behind it. It also features Alain Johannes, famous for being involved with quite a few bands including Queens of the Stone Age, playing what’s called a cigfiddle in the guitar solo break.
Grace Street‘s longer songs don’t typically bore me, which is something I was worried about. In fact, I don’t have anything bad to say about any of them. It starts slow with the acoustic and vocal based Useless, and it grows from there. Motionless is another slower track, but with a trance inducing delay effected clean guitar sound heard throughout. Digging In and Floodgates are both textbook Big Wreck, but with a matured aspect to their songwriting. Digging In is a crunchy hard rocking song that has a chorus made out of gold, while Floodgates is a mid tempo track and likely one of the first songs that you’ll remember after your first listen of the album.
The Arborist hits epic stature, with its intro (again with some sort of chordophone that I can’t name just by hearing it) and with its chorus that hooks me right in exactly the way One Good Piece of Me does, only in not as much of a poppy or radio friendly way. The guitar solo is also perhaps my favourite of any and all previous Big Wreck songs.
Even the really long songs, I’m talking the ones that go over six minutes in length, are excellent tracks. I wouldn’t call them the best songs on Grace Street, but the album wouldn’t be the same without them. Speedy Recovery‘s steady calm rhythm matched with Chuck Keeping‘s relatively fast and complex drum beat makes for a musical contradiction that not only works, but it’s so interesting, and so repetitive, that it could play on in your head for hours. Closing track All My Fears Into You is the slowest song on the album, and it is a textbook slow Big Wreck song at that. One that long time fans will like thanks to the familiar Big Wreck touch that has been put into it.
The most interesting track on Grace Street is the seven minute instrumental Skybunk Marché. I don’t know of many Big Wreck instrumentals in the past, but I doubt they are as entertaining as this one. Even saying an instrumental is entertaining is something unique these days. Long gone are the days when bands like Rush could shell out an instrumental on every album and have them all be better than the last one. In Big Wreck’s case, they practically hit Rush standards. Brian Doherty‘s offbeat rhythm guitar playing (plus of course David McMillan‘s pace setting bass playing) alone would make this a listenable track. Ian Thornley‘s guitar playing makes all the difference though. With every verse, his playing gets better and faster. I remember, and perhaps you do too, first hearing Ghosts on the radio and being impressed by his Stevie Ray Vaughan-esque blues playing and being impressed. Well his playing on this instrumental blows that song out of the water.
Needless to say that Grace Street did in fact turn around my interest in the band. That includes getting heavily in to the bands second album The Pleasure and the Greed and heavily listening to songs from the two previous albums since their reunion Albatross and Ghosts. Taking all of this in to consideration, I do feel that Grace Street is Big Wreck‘s best album to date. I have spoken to a couple of people who disagree, and I respect that, but it can’t be denied that Grace Street is an example of excellence in modern rock.
Thanks for reading!
“One Good Piece of Me” – It probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but if you’ve heard the song, you’d probably get why it was the natural choice too.
9.5 (Out of 10)
|1.||“It Comes as No Surprise”||4:17|
|2.||“One Good Piece of Me”||4:01|
|4.||“You Don’t Even Know”||3:52|
|6.||“A Speedy Recovery”||7:38|
|9.||“The Receiving End”||3:21|
|13.||“All My Fears on You”||6:14|