Release Date: May 29, 12
Post-punk is a genre that cannot be simply pushed away forever. The legacy left by bands like The Sound, Josef K, and more recently, Interpol, is one that has influenced and will continue to influence countless bands along the playing field. Though the darker, dancier, and more synth-incorporated bands of the late 70s and early 80s, seem to have had the biggest impact on our generation. Despite the fact that there have recently been exciting bands like Total Control, Iceage, and Twin Shadow that have propelled post-punk into a different direction; there are a terrifying amount of others that have done the genre injustice in the past ten years. Bands like White Lies, Does It Offend You, Yeah?, and the god-awful She Wants Revenge; seem to understand how to put on the post-punk costume, but don’t really understand how to submit to its character. The second wave of post-punk (that started with bands like The Rapture and Liars in the early part of the millennium), has seem to have had a longer-than-expected run, and Big Science is one of many bands who have come to join the party.
The drums (electronic & organic), the guitar, the vocals (lead and backing), the bass, synth, and the magnitude of effects, are all very strong and consistent on Big Science’s debut album, Difficulty. Yet so many bands similar or dissimilar to Big Science seem to have every element it takes to be an impactful band aside from having memorable vocal melodies and lyrics. Well, to be honest, they’re like most post-punk bands, in the sense that their lyrics are predictably full of pseudo-intellectualism and dishonest metaphors. But instead of giving a daft but well-oiled machine of melodies (something Death From Above 1979 or Crystal Castles do well), Big Science leaves us with just a few moments of dance-ability, and zero moments of introspection.
The opener, “All The Heat Has Escaped,” is a spacey track that leaves you waiting for a big moment for nearly four minutes until it’s Tunde Adibempe-like vocals and obvious attempt at depth, fades into oblivion. The following track, “American Gravity,” simply sounds too much like The Bravery for my own comfort, but Big Science leaves something for you to invest in with the third track “Blind Our Eyes.” A constant repeating at the beginning of “he cuts you out, he cuts you right out of the light,” a choir of “woos” and “hoos”, and terrific drumming; make for a song you can ignore the lyrics of and drunkenly shuffle to at your favorite local dive. The next two tracks start out strong, but fall off quickly. “No One Ever Wakes Up” has a very fun minor-chord jumping piano, but the chorus’s lack of melody and cheesy synths leave you disappointed in its 80s kitsch. “Loose Change Century” has very Lockett Pundt-like guitars, but the song itself is daunting to listen to.
“Headlight Song” is frustratingly a Twin Shadow rip-off, and “Crown For The Hanging” sounds like the bloated, over-produced early-90s albums of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. The last two tracks “Subliminal” and “When You Go, Go Away” are a woozy & nauseating, but the eighth track, “AM Golden” is very well done musically. Despite the chorus being inaudible and lyrics like “AM Golden/Hotel vapor underwear/there’s a name inside my skull/that will not let me rest,” being laughably pretentious; the music itself is very pretty and well-produced. The last minute and a half of “When You Go, Go Away” feels very cinematic and journey-like, but the repetitiveness of the song makes you feel like the journey was a sort of a waste of time.
And after ten post-punk songs that seem to wear the second-wave of the genre very strongly on its sleeve; Difficulty is an aptly titled, difficult album, and “Blind Our Eyes” seems to be the only full enjoyment one could gain out of listening to Big Science’s debut. And what’s really the disappointment is that Big Science clearly are a talented group of individuals. Despite that this debut is very passable, I do not think the band will stop, and I can tell they have much more potential to be something more interesting. They need to save the “difficulty” for the third album, and just have fun for now. Post-punk is a music that is done quite often nowadays, but much like the similar bands Carrie Brownstein mentioned in an article for NPR a while back; Big Science seem have the right sound, but lack the “fire, angularity, discord, ingenuity or politics.” Retroactivity can definitely be an admirable thing in music, but bands these days seem to be too influenced by the influenced (i.e. the second wave of post-punk), and seem to commit too quickly to a sound before doing enough homework. Difficulty is a thoroughly produced and well performed record, but all except for one track seem to be forced songs full of ingenuity and underwhelming imitation.