Under most circumstances, hearing that a band has spontaneously slowed down on their newest album sends chills through fans. In rock, “slowing down” is usually synonymous with “getting old” or becoming “less energetic” and, when these phrases start flying around, it’s like a death knell for the band at which they’re aimed. No fan likes hearing that they or their favourite band is getting old because, at its best, rock is young, uncertain, anxious and ready to burn the establishment down; saying that a group has slowed down is no kind of compliment because it’s tantamount to saying they perished in the blaze.
That said, there’s no denying that Big Wreck has slowed down on Ghosts (their fourth album), but they’re clearly in no danger of burning up. Rather, like Black Sabbath before them, Big Wreck proves that they’ve learned to contain and control the fire WITHIN their songs; they are moving slower on Ghosts, but by no stretch of the imagination are they languishing.
“A Place To Call Home” leads off Ghosts‘ laden pace and pushes the album off on the rate it ends up maintaining for the duration of its runtime. Thick and incredibly dense layers of guitar are the order of the day here as singer/guitarist Ian Thornley leads his now much-enlarged band (up from its original three members: Ghosts features Brian Doherty – the only returning member to the band other than Thornley – Paulo Neta, Chuck Keeping and Dave McMillan) through a methodically-paced rocker which could easily be called the definition of a foul-tempered stomp. This is no nonsense and no-bullshit shuff; there are no instrumental heroics, just a very “get in, melt faces, stay long enough for listeners to feel it and get the hell out” focus.
In print, “A Place To Call Home” might sound like it is a little anti-heroic or even staid but, in practice, it is the perfect way to announce Big Wreck’s return, BETTER than “Albatross” ever did.
The pace and “no frills” practice that gets set by “A Place To Call Home” proves to be the norm through all of the songs on Ghosts, but there’s no question that some of the songs still rank as some of the best of the band’s career too. On particular standouts, Big Wreck reconciles the lack of fireworks in the songwriting with some shockingly good lyrical turns and balances out the spaces where there have normally been big guitar sounds so that listeners don’t even have time to miss them. That in and of itself is a songwriting turn that Big Wreck should most definitely be proud of.
(www.bigwreckmusic.com, Anthem/Warner Music)