I’ve been saying “We need more Big Blue Marble” since I first saw them live over a year ago. Though I suffered from heavy tinnitus for over two weeks afterwards, there was another sensation that also lingered from that show: my appreciation for a band comprised of subdued personalities and a seemingly shoegaze ethic that allowed its slicing, jarringly loud noise to speak for itself.
That live performance, it would seem, marked a noticeable change in the band’s sound, as its stage show that night was one of the loudest, grittiest, most straightforward rock performances I’d ever experienced. That noticeable change – or rather, different musical angle – seemed at odds with what their currently-available studio offerings, 2005’s Stars in Suburbia and 2007’s Natchez, had to offer. Those records leaned much more indie rock and, though great releases in their own right, came nowhere as close to dislodging one of my eardrums as that 2009 concert did.
The Big Blue Marble, the band’s semi-self-titled third full length album has finally reduced to writing the bridge between indie and rock that they seemed intent on gapping over a year ago, though it also goes much further than that. As it turns out, the tunes that Big Blue Marble has been playing live recently are anything but straightforward. Instead, the band treats listeners to a host of new influences as it veers away from indie and toward the many varied subgenres of 1970s rock n’ roll.
Opening track “Motorboat” begins with a prototypical combination of Rolling Stones guitar riffs and Dylan-esque vocals that amounts to a much-more-listenable, mid-tempo version of “Smoke It” by the Dandy Warhols before diving headlong into New York Dolls territory for a bridge that thoroughly lays modern art school turds to waste. “Sorry Charlie” presents an even more interesting marriage of classic southern rock lead and punk rock rhythm, ripe with seamless tempo changes and massive walls of noise.
A running motif throughout The Big Blue Marble seems to be the incorporation of nostalgic genres of rock to demystify the hipster culture of bands that downright mimic their influences in terms of both image and recording technique. This is best evidenced by “Faubourg Marigny”, as singer David Fera bluntly states, “You’re a sixties reenactor and you’re living in the past…You’re such a tragic hipster, you’re a rock n’ roll clone.”
Unsurprisingly, where Big Blue Marble differs most starkly from the aforementioned rock n’ roll clones is in its undeniably classy recording – devoid of artificially created texture or an adherence to the modern proclivity for lo-fidelity. This, in turn, is The Big Blue Marble’s greatest asset: the album is unmistakably of the modern age, and one would think that the band specifically intended it this way. The result is the band’s most solid – and subtly brilliant – album to date, and possibly one of the best rock records 2011 has offered up.