Mr. Big

Next Time Around: Best of Mr. Big

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Next Time Around marks Mr. Big's reunion after a seven-year hiatus. Chances are, the band could have gone for a new album instead of a best-of collection -- at least the two new tracks framing this record are among its best cuts -- but then, reinventing themselves sounds clearly out of question, and that aside, Mr. Big don't really need new stuff, because it's what they've already accomplished that makes them loved by their fans, of whom plenty still exist (especially in Japan, where Mr. Big remained...well...big, despite the Western grunge explosion). Next Time Around confirms that Mr. Big were never more than an also-ran in the hair/pop-metal scene, but also that they were a very good also-ran with some killer tunes to blast, unlike many of their rivals, who were convinced a huge hairdo and a pointy guitar are the only things needed to be musicians. Mr. Big channeled Def Leppard and Van Halen, it's true, as well as Bon Jovi, and Aerosmith in their rowdier moments, but while their arena hard rock was invented by others, they reproduced it without any slacking off, using their formidable musical skills to come out with songs no worse than those of their teachers. Next Time Around is chock-full of huge upbeat rockers with hooks fit for whale fishing -- it's beyond human power to stop head-bobbing to songs like "Take Cover" and "Take a Walk," dated as they may sound, and a few semi-ballads and raw rock & roll numbers round out the collection nicely, although the new song "Hold Your Head Up" (actually an Argent cover) shows Mr. Big could really challenge themselves to new things if they tried. They didn't, but Next Time Around is still a notable lesson about the roots of J-rock, on which Mr. Big had a huge impact, as well as veritable guilty pleasure: it's the opposite of hip, but also embarrassingly catchy.