Big Smash!

Wreckless Eric

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Big Smash! Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

It's entirely possible that the title to Wreckless Eric's third album Big Smash! was meant sincerely, it's entirely possible that it was an ironic joke -- such is the charm of Wreckless is that both answers are entirely plausible. The thing is, the truth doesn't matter -- as Eric reveals in the liner notes to the 2007 expanded reissue, he didn't even think of the title, merely chose it from two options offered by Stiff. Nevertheless, Big Smash! sure sounds like an attempt to have a big pop smash, something that Wreckless wryly admits with the opening "A Pop Song," a sly jibe at the record company asking for a hit, with Eric acquiescing to their demands with a song as sardonic and hooky as his one-time producer, Nick Lowe. But Big Smash!, overall, sees Wreckless Eric toning down his sense of humor considerably while tightening up his attack, which makes this a very different affair than the debut or his early singles. Those were wild, unruly, unhinged -- truly, they were reckless, where this is just eccentric, but that doesn't mean it's tamed. In fact, a cleaned-up Wreckless Eric still packs a powerful punch, as evidenced by his rampaging cover of "Break My Mind," and the cleaner attack highlights his skills as a pop songwriter, capable of writing tunes that are as barbed lyrically as they are musically, but also capable of a surprising sweetness. It's hard not to draw comparisons to the Stiff alumni Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe, since the music is reminiscent of Costello's new wave pop and his style is closer to Lowe's, but Eric is certainly his own unique thing, which Big Smash! makes clear in a way that his debut didn't. Again, clarity is the key here -- the magic of the debut is that it was a drunken mess, but here there's no debris, just pure pop and rock & roll, and it's every bit as addictive as his debut, and it's more cohesive, too, so it may just trump it in that regard.

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