Album Review: Big Wreck - Ghosts
Ghosts, the 4th studio release from Canadian rock band Big Wreck is a Goliath album of 70 minutes, but the time listening to it is well spent. The CD, from the reinvigorated ASP records, is of excellent sound quality, diverse musicianship and ingenious song-writing.
The opening track (coming in at a whopping 7:41) begins the journey with a single guitar ringing out a haunting anthem. When the lyrics begin you realise that this band is unquestionably out for something more than mediocre.
Some rather epic lyrics indoctrinate you- “So how do you beg for what's your own? Pick the pieces, lick the wounds, stoke the fire and fan the flame, squeeze the clouds until it rains. Once you champion the cause, till you find out what you've lost. Who do you dare to call your own, where is the place that you call home?”
The song puts on the plate what Big Wreck is all about. Strong singing, a deep and resonant guitar and bass sound, clean drumming from a well set up kit and an overall atmosphere of professionalism.
I Digress steps up the pace in a big way, with a call-and-answer intro between guitar and bass. Track two is such a contrasting feel from the first, but again shows off some melodic suspended singing over a hard rock sound. The track swaps between a happy indie type sounding chorus and a rougher busting verse. A dazzling minute-long guitar solo closes the track keeping the pace till the very end.
Next up- the title track. Bring on the funky bass sound and soulful vocals, layered on nice and thick in the chorus. The song speaks to liberation from spectres of the past. “And if the stars all aligned, and my hands were untied. If these ghosts let me go, I would set fire to them all.”
The bass guitar carries this track to a large degree, especially over the whining guitar solos. One can imagine much face contortion from the guitarists during these epic interludes.
My Life brings yet another timbre change to the album, where staccato piano plays throughout. Some space in this track allows the listener to really appreciate some outstanding vocal work. Often the drumming (throughout the tracks) is so metronomic and well balanced that it just blends into the mix. Boom, take another guitar solo, but on a different setting.
Lets try a new feel shall we? “Hey Mama, hear me hollar, Hey Mama watch me pray. I bury you out in my back yard, I hung you up high in the tree, yeah that was me” The track takes more of a western style, but rock-and roll influenced. A full sound comes from the whole band, bass driving while the guitar focuses on the western feel. A simple structure is employed in this track but Big Wreck develops each of the repeats so well that you want to hear them every time. A well-placed drop in intensity towards the end of the track just makes the finale more powerful.
Acoustic guitars lead the way in Diamonds along with vocalist Ian Thornley's magnificent voice. The track has effective little cannons of guitaring and vocals and its intensity dips and peaks. A very unique guitar tones is used for the main verse melody, backed up by multiple layers of vocals; some very passionate singing comes out in this gem.
Still Here is another massive track, at just under eight minutes long. It is more of a free flowing, walking-pace track, led strongly with bass. The guitars mostly strum and the focus is on vocal prowess. Ambient noises in the background give the song a dreamy feeling.
Back to a more traditional rock-and-roll feel with Come What May, the band continues to reward the listener for making it this far (Track 11). It does feel like the CD coming to a close, and this very melodic track is well placed in the track-list. A mid-way a capella of male voices shows that the songwriters in this band have a full understanding of the powerful effect of harmony- but it would be unfair to say this is the only time that they document it- it is pretty constant.
War Baby is led by a walking bass and some very poetic lyrics in the onset. “Only the very young and the very beautiful can be so aloof- hanging out with the boys, all swagger and poise. I don't even care when other people are there, I just stare and stare and stare.” The song is a beautiful, slow and full of emotion. It is a apt track to end off the CD, as track 13 is a reprise of A Place to Call Home.
The album, available on iTunes, has been nominated for “Rock Album of the Year” at the 2015 Juno Awards, the Canadian equivalent to a Grammy.