By 1993, ten years after their E-Bow-led domestic breakthrough, Big Country had largely given up on America. Without the novelty of their gingham shirts and bagpipe effects, the band's anthems didn't carry across the Atlantic, to say nothing of Stuart Adamson's call-to-action working-class lyricisms. Nevertheless, Big Country had sustained their trademark sound over that same period of time, charting here in there in the U.K. while not relying as heavily on gimmickry. Perhaps encouraged by the grassroots U.S. success of Glaswegians Del Amitri, Big Country's The Buffalo Skinners -- partly made up of a 1991 LP that hadn't kissed American soil -- was issued in the U.S. in 1993. It arrived with a shrug attached -- here it is, it seemed to say, whether you like it or not. But while Skinners forsook the E-Bow, it stood boldly, unabashedly behind its rousing, throaty rock sound and the righteous lyrics of Adamson. Opener "Alone" is like a template for the entire album. "I have been a lost and lonely sailor on your sea," the ever-dramatic Adamson croons, voice cracking a bit over tense, churning guitar and bass. This sets up the impossibly triumphant chorus, which in turn leads to a rangy solo. As the band cranks out "Alone"'s chorus repeatedly over the second half, it's easy to think of Big Country as the Scottish version of Live, who would have a hit with their own "I Alone" a year later. Both groups grafted the emotive passion of U2 to huge, arena riffing, but only one would make it in the U.S. (Maybe if Adamson shaved his head? Nevermind.) Skinners continues through a first half that has only one, exultant gear, but the strength of "Seven Waves" and "One I Love"'s choruses is so pure and honest, it's hard not to get butterflies in the bridge. Adamson's preachiness gets a bit hammy toward the middle of Buffalo Skinners, especially during "We're Not in Kansas" and "All Go Together," the latter of which lays on the rock riffage and "hey! hey!"s way too hard. But even these songs are convincing in their support of honest, guitar-based heroics. You probably don't need every Big Country album. But fans of their first -- not to mention the Alarm or American roots rockers like the Connells -- will find The Buffalo Skinners hard to deny.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus