Judging from their press material, the two members of Charlotte, North Carolina’s Big Bus Dream have a few decades of music experience between them, with singer-guitarist Mike Shannon a self-professed product of “CBGB’s post-punk scene” (in an unclear capacity) and guitarist Chick Tsikouras having worked with Pat Metheny and the Mamas & the Papas. With this sort of experience doesn’t always come brilliance, but you still might expect more than the confused, ungainly mess of discordant influences and lyrical stinkbombs that is this band’s third release.
Clearly intended as an album of Big Statements on Life, Big Dream Baby is serious to a fault, as Shannon affects a forced Lou Reed know-it-all talkiness on everything from the leaden-footed riff-rock of “Little Bit Insane” to the stiff Spin Doctors funk of “Laughing” to the autopilot folk of “Utopia”. If he has any insights to share, he hides them well under nonsensical inversions like “You better run / To the dark side of the sun / See it slippin’ away / Lookin’ for a better day” and headscratchers like “Rat race / But I’m the cat bein’ chased / I’m ordinary people / In an un-ordinary place.” Most ridiculous is the acoustic “Wonderland”, a shamelessly overt riff on “The Kids” from Reed’s Berlin that trades heroin squalor for suburban gossip (“At a party the other day / I heard you were sober, I heard you were gay / How in the hell did you get that way?”). The music offers little welcome distraction from Shannon’s verbal misfires. On the heavier material, the guitars are processed into a plastic ‘80s hard rock sound, and Shannon’s sing-speak delivery isn’t iconic enough to make up for the lack of melody at the center of these tunes.
A different musical approach might have redeemed some of the moments here. In fact, Shannon and Tsikouras released some of these songs in vastly different arrangements on their previous two albums with far better, more natural-sounding results, which makes Big Dream Baby an unflattering curiosity even within their small catalog.
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