I don’t think I’ve had the opportunity to write much about Chicago’s Big Buildings since I arrived at wordpress, but on my old site I interviewed them and found them to be genuine, funny guys (I also found Michael Wood to be a bit of a wiseass). The last time I talked with them, I told them they should name their next album, “Dark Side of the Moon.”
They didn’t take my suggestion.
If you don’t know, Big Buildings released their first EP, This Is The Bricks, in 2002 on the Stars/No Stars label (which they still belong to). It was a rough collection of songs that they followed in 2004 with their debut full-length, Hang Together For All Time (available on eMusic), a fantastic collection of gritty, lo-fi rock. I discovered the band in ’06, when they released one of the best records of that year: “Water Everywhere.” It still gets regular spins from me.
On their new release, the band has swelled to a quintet, and their sound has expanded, too. The first song, The Nipper, is the sort of intro track you’d expect from a more pretentious band—featuring produced swirl and psychelic tambourine-quite a surprise from a band that in past has consistently walked the line between punk and alt-country. The second song, North To Alaska, is almost beautiful, with wonderful harmonies and crying guitars. Can it be that Big Buildings has grown up? No, wait. The third song, Questiontown, is a rootsy rocker. As the album proceeds, it becomes clear they haven’t changed. They’ve just gained more control over their instruments. The difference between Wampum and 2004’s Hang Together For All Time is like the difference between “Hootenanny” and “All Shook Down.” Big Buildings is still playing the same great music, only they seem to have come closer to playing it like it must sound in their heads.
The Wampum LP is now available at Permanent Records, but it is vinyl only (order includes an MP3 download). I asked them why no CD, and they said their last CD barely moved physical copies (while their first did pretty well), which they are chalking up to the fact that nobody buys CDs anymore. Interesting approach to distribution, and perhaps another way that labels can save money.
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