Thursday, June 4, 2009
Big Business' "Mind The Drift" Praise Continues!
Mind the Drift
[Hydra Head; 2009]
Chances are high that if you like the first two records from L.A.-via-Seattle's Big Business, you'll also like the band's third album in four years, Mind the Drift. While that may sound like quintessential question-begging, it's not, as bassist Jared Warren and drummer Coady Willis added guitarist Toshi Kasai before writing and recording much of number three. To these ears, Willis and Warren have always been a pop band that clad great hooks-- listen for "Eis Hexe" from Head For the Shallow, or "Grounds for Divorce" from Here Come the Waterworks -- within thick metal plates. They've had fun, too, taking risks with the occasional expansive instrumental track or a hard-charging tune that, without warning, opens wide into synthesizer wizardry and choral vocals. Infinitely likable and accessible but ultimately distinct and identifiable, Big Business have long seemed hard rock's answer to Phoenix. Aside from both having backed more-established acts (Phoenix once backed Air; Mind the Drift is Big Business' second since becoming an official half of the Melvins), both bands take magnetic pop cores and cast them into surprising musical contexts. Phoenix goes for sharp guitars and billowing keyboards. Big Business go for skuzzy bass and busy drums.
Mind the Drift seems to be an expansion of that: Willis still viciously circumnavigates his drumkit with authority and adventure. Warren still manhandles a viscous bass tone that he funnels into heavy themes. Kasai adds texture and dimension, augmenting what's there instead of adulterating it. The hooks are still memorable, and the arrangements are still heavy. On "The Drift", for instance, bass and guitar are locked into a direct charge, while Willis dances on and around the beat with his cymbals. "You take the east/ And I'll take the west/ If we meet in the middle/ We'll know," barks Warren, his voice handled better than ever before by producer Phil Ek. On single "Gold and Final", Kasai's guitar actually takes the lead, twisting through an anxious, repetitive phrase. He keeps his tone and sound small, though, a juxtaposition that emphasizes the size of the giants-- bass, guitar, and Warren and Willis' countering vocals-- towering overhead. This album's mid-point weirdness, "I Got It Online", works through a similar spatial effect. Warren anxiously shouts phrases like "Too many squares/ Too many cruds/ Too many nerds." His distorted bass and Willis' restless drum beating wrestle Kasai's guitar pattern-- staccato notes nervously scattered through the mix with delay-- for room. Lyrically and musically, it's an epic battle of nerves. In duo form, the tune would've sounded incomplete.
And perhaps that's what some folks have liked about Big Business all along: Where I heard pop possibility turned tough, I suppose others simply heard two guys beating pretty good songs about social anxieties into a heavy metal mess. For some, Kasai's addition has worked as a distraction from that unequivocal beastliness. I reckon those folks will really dislike "Theme From Big Business II", a finessed seven-minute metal anthem with an arching guitar line, chimes, and well-placed harmonies that sound a little like Crosby, Stills & Nash gone wild. For the most part, Warren sticks his bass playing to the script, and Willis builds his drum lines through well-considered waves. Kasai, meanwhile, is all over the place, making his guitar mirror a horn before sweeping through a fast cycle of riffs and variations. I think it rules, and I loved Big Business I. Maybe you loved Big Business I, too, but you hate this. That would be too bad.
— Grayson Currin, June 3, 2009