Big Talk: Big Talk

Big Talk sounds like a pair of Ray-Bans resting on the neck of a Telecaster or a beautiful woman in a cut-off shirt leaning against a convertible on the side of a desert highway... which is to say it sounds like the fantasy world of an '80s rocker on a coke-jag.

Big Talk

Big Talk

Label: Epitaph
US Release Date: 2011-07-19
UK Release Date: 2011-07-15
Label Website
Artist Website

Sometimes talent is not a matter of argument. Big Talk is flush with it, mostly in the hands of Ronnie Vannucci, known best for his drumming in the Killers. Vannucci makes the lion's share of sounds on Big Talk's debut: singing, drumming and playing keyboards and guitars. He's crafted an album that sounds slick and competent the whole way through. But unlike talent, taste is always in dispute.

Big Talk has a lot going for it really: big smooth vocals, expert production, impeccably synced instrumentation and some catchy, catchy songs. Vannucci's guitar work, along with collaborator Taylor Milne, is tremendous and accomplished. The unmistakably rich and trebly tone of a Telecaster gives life to the strings on Big Talk, at times sounding affected and atmospheric until it's dramatically spotlighted on a swaggering lead. The interplay between the guitars and keyboards are key to the contemporary mainstream-meets-cutting-edge sound that defines Big Talk, but like communism, the XFL and ketchup-flavored potato chips, Big Talk sounds better in theory than in practice.

The biggest problem with Big Talk is the lack of originality. It's apparent that Vannucci blended his interests with his abilities without much exploration, rarely stepping outside of the confines of familiar rock sounds, old and new. In fact, he has a real knack for identifying the cliches and minutiae of mainstream rock and making them general. The melodies, the harmonies, the chords, the drums, they're all inexplicably reminiscent something we've heard on the radio. Hence, everything here is intuitive, easily digestible and better on the first listen than on the tenth.

Vannucci and Milne are standing on slouchy shoulders of pedestrian predecessors and walking in the footsteps of a path too often trampled by '80s rockers like Don Henley, .38 Special and Tom Petty with too little of their own twist to make it feel fresh. As an artist, you can't choose your inspiration, but you can choose which influences you draw from and in what manner. Unfortunately, Big Talk's choice of derivations makes for a sound that lacks excitement and comes off inartistic.

What's worse is how quickly Big Talk begin to imitate themselves. Repetition and formula become quickly apparent. Musically, it's the predictable dynamics of mood and volume that make for a one-dimensional emotional experience and lyrically, it's all heartbreak and one-way conversations broken down into redundant themes and singular, one sentence choruses.

Not all music is supposed to be art and some listeners will love these 12 tunes about women and whiskey, especially more mature fans of the Killers. To Big Talk's credit, at least three songs here are worthy of being singles. The bouncy, synth-driven breakup declaration "Getaways", with a lighthearted beat and a contagious chorus, is one of the collections best. Another standout is "The Next One Living", which features beautifully slight singing over a solid electro-acoustic backing. Ostensibly, the song that is the most indicative of the overall style, however, is the standard issue slow rocker "Replica". It's the outliers, though, that are Big Talk's best. Stylistically, "Whiskey" and "Big Eye" are the most departing tracks of the bunch, lending to the notion that a little deviation might have done this album a great service. Instead, what we have is an attempt to boil down old cliches into something fresh, but instead reducing them to the lowest thing rock music: a boring album.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.