Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Big Star - Third/Sister Lovers

For Howard, my favorite Big Star and one of the most depressing albums ever made.

"Recorded a year later in 1974, with producer and fellow Memphis musician/producer Jim Dickinson and backed with a host of friends and flunkies, the album, which has three working titles, Third, Sisters Lovers, and Beale St. Green, wasn't released until 1978 when it sold fewer records than probably Skip Spence's Oar, an album it resembles. Sister Lovers was re-released on CD by Rykodisc in 1992 to near universal acclaim (except in Afghanistan. Humorless Taliban shitheads, they would have dug the misery). If the first Big Star album is the greatest pure pop album of the last thirty years, and if the second is the finest record made between Exile on Main Street and Hüsker Dü's New Day Rising, Sister Lovers is one of the top twenty albums of all time. And don't care if it's predominantly a solo or band venture; I look at the label and it says Big Star, and in the same way that the Byrds, Yardbirds, and The Move radically changed personnel, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and is called Big Star, then it's a god damned duck.

And it is a very strange duck. To start with, it prefigures some of his solo albums in its self-absorption, disturbing solitude, sloppiness of musicianship, lack of a coherent song placement, and in its brutal disregard for convention or commercial prospects. Half the time, I want to sell it right after playing it, but then I proceed to drive a steak knife into my lower colon and play the album again. Most of the songs lack an introductory phrase: not merely in media res, but more like in the middle of hell, Chilton's songs are the songs you'd hear as Charon ferries you across the River Styx. And instead of money stuffed in your mouth to pay for the ride, your ears are stuffed with bleakness, radical song structures collapsing upon themselves, and relationships that end worse than the Holocaust: in Holiday Inns; on downs; or simply wishing to "shoot a woman." To be sure, as a singer/songwriter album full of quirky asides, declarations of hopelessness, and dark ramblings on the failure of America, Sister Lovers shares a similar greatness, ethos, and virtuosic intensity with other albums of the period, several of them nearly as great and dark as this one: Mayfield's Roots, Gaye's Here, My Dear, Wyatt's Rock Bottom, Young's Tonight's The Night, Cale's Paris 1919 and Hazelwood's Requiem For An Almost Lady. But Sister Lovers documents a great mind and a great talent at both the apex and the nadir of his career/life and, even if he begs "I want to white out" himself on the scary opening track, 'Kizza Me', he doesn't mean it – he is as proud to be our Cassandra, self-accused and accusatory, his fingers chained to a guitar of shimmering beauty. He proposes confessions here hoping for forgiveness. He is wrong. It is we who are sorry, guilty, miserable, former believers no longer living with certitude." - Michael Baker

I would add Reed's "Berlin"and Cohen's "Death of a Ladies' Man" to the list above, among others. But that's just me. Enjoy



  1. haha que intensa esa descipcion. vamoalla.

  2. I think you're right, this is a depressive album, but at the same time is one of the best in my collection. Most of the people can't ignore this important music, and wasn't released until 1978 when it sold fewer records than probably Skip Spence's.