Big Talk

Big Talk

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The second of the Killers to take a working holiday, Ronnie Vannucci Jr. can't be accused of bandwagon jumping or even borrowing too much from his day job with Big Talk's self-titled debut. Vannucci isn't as much of a force behind the microphone as Brandon Flowers is -- though his tenor is perfectly respectable -- but he doesn't need to be. Instead, he concentrates on songcraft, filling Big Talk with tunes that brim with proper bridges, breakdowns, and turnarounds. In this regard, the album feels like a real throwback; these tracks aren't trying to be cool or edgy, and Big Talk feels surprisingly personal because of that. Some of the Killers' pop glitz can be heard here and there, particularly on the glossy "Replica," which could be the theme song from Mannequin 3, but there are no Springsteen-meets-Duran Duran flights of fancy here. While the feel is distinctly '80s, Big Talk revel in straight-ahead power pop that harks back to the Cars, Steve Miller, Rick Springfield, and Dwight Twilley, particularly on "A Fine Time to Need Me," "Katzenjammer," and "White Dove." Elsewhere, "Living in Pictures" hints at what Joe Jackson would sound like if he were a Yank, and "Girl at Sunrise" borrows some of the rollicking bounce of Bruce's "I'm Goin' Down." These comparisons aren't to suggest that Big Talk are especially derivative; it's just that this kind of quirk-free yet catchy sound doesn't have many contemporary practitioners (think a less goofy Weezer or a regular Joe version of the Strokes). This more straightforward approach means that there's less eye-rolling excess than on the Killers' albums, but at times it feels like Big Talk could do with a little more strangeness. Then again, the number of artists making this kind of music in the 2010s is so small that the very lack of strangeness makes it stand out. Big Talk may not have rock star sparkle, but it walks the walk when it comes to solidly entertaining songs.

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