Big Wreck's 1997 debut In Loving Memory Of may not have been a thoroughly consistent record, but it definitely contained several impressive highlights like the big-sound balladry of "Blown Wide Open", the atmospheric acoustic gem "Under the Lighthouse" and their hit single "That Song" which scarfed up lots airtime while wearing it's Rotting Pinata-era Sponge influence for all to see. It was moments like these that gave great expectations that future releases by this Boston quartet could only get better. However, their sophomore effort The Pleasure and the Greed has failed to live up to that initial assessment.
The Pleasure and the Greed is the antithesis of In Loving Memory of. The potential that permeated their debut is squandered here. To qualify The Pleasure and the Greed as disappointing would be an understatement. To Big Wreck's credit, the musicianship here is great. Ian Thornley (guitar/vocals), David Henning (bass), Brian Doherty (guitar) and Forrest Williams (drums) are all former Berklee College of Music students, so instrumentally the record is strong even though the overall vibe is eerily reminiscent Superunknown-era Soundgarden. Vocally, Thornley has never sounded better. His big Chris Cornell-ish pipes are powerful and his range is just as impressive throughout the record. But unfortunately, no amount of individual or collective musical prowess can save a record that is compositionally uninspired, unimaginative and just plain stale.
Of The Pleasure and the Greed's 16 tracks, it's not until you get to "Breakthrough", the album's tenth track, that you come across a song that you can hang your hat on. After that, only the brisk, bright arpeggio-laden "Head in the Girl" and the soft, ethereal "Defined by What We Steal" are capable of temporarily stealing your attention. But even though these moments are the album's strongest, they eventually prove to be just as fleeting and forgettable as the rest of the record.
Big Wreck is a great band, but The Pleasure and the Greed isn't even close to matching their talent and skill. The musicianship here is far beyond the technical capabilities of most bands, and if you were to purchase the record based on that characteristic alone, then I'd say you could do far worse. But if it's hooks you're after -- try going fishing.