|Big Star – Radio City (1974)
Sorry for the lapse in C.A.T’s, I guess I’ve just had a lack of enthusiasm about writing another one of these things, just as I’m sure everyone has a lack of enthusiasm towards reading them. Anyways, Big Star has always been one of my all-time favorite bands, so it’s a little surprising that I haven’t gotten around to doing them for a CAT, but today that all changes. I’d probably say 1978’s Third/Sister Lovers stands as the band’s crowning achievement, but Radio City is still probably the best example of Big Star’s signature brand of sunny power-pop.
The first Big Star record was fueled by the songwriting team of Chris Bell and Alex Chilton, but prior to Radio City, Bell left the band with Chilton more or less taking over as the band’s leader. You can’t really feel Bell’s absence on the album, as it really just feels like a continuation of their debut, but the songs are just as good if not better. Everything is very upbeat and undeniably catchy, though there are certainly moments that hint at the slightly darker sound that Chilton would pursue on Third/Sister Lovers.
For some reason, Big Star always reminds me of my teenage years. I guess one obvious reason would be that I really got into the band while I was in high school, but it also has to do a lot with the breezy nostalgia Chilton evokes in these songs. Something like “Back Of A Car” pretty perfectly exudes those fleeting feelings of youth, while a song like “I’m In Love With A Girl” is such an unbelievably simple and naive take on love, and yet somehow Chilton makes it work magnificently. But I guess it was Big Star’s ability to boil down what makes a great pop song to its purest necessities that made them special. And I don’t think that’s any more evident on Radio City‘s high point “September Gurls”, another underrated gem that’s about as good as youth anthems get.
Favorite Albums: “Life Is White”, “September Gurls”, “I’m In Love With A Girl”