Original Release / Slumberland Records / SLR 148 / MP3 / 320
Big Troubles makes no bones about their influences. The New Jersey four-piece hit the ground running with their 2010 debut, Worry, a bona fide shoegaze hit. Lacing their blown-out guitars with nebulous vocals, singer/songwriters Alex Craig and Ian Drennan offered a refreshing take on the genre while acutely paying homage to the likes of My Bloody Valentine and Guided By Voices.
Those familiar with the outfit’s work will probably be a bit fuddled when they first give a listen to Romantic Comedy. It’s an unabashed pop album that lavishes in its hi-fi glory—a far cry from the melodies that were embedded deep in Worry’s crunched wall of sound.
While changing gears, the band’s inspirations are just as manifest. The bright riff off the opener “She Smiles For Pictures” parallels the poppy sensibilities found in the early recordings of neighboring New Jerseyans Fountains Of Wayne. All the while both Alex and Ian sing hushed vocals with a Billy Corgan flair.
Made hazy enough with just the right drop of 90’s slacker rock, Big Troubles have ambitiously crafted a nearly perfect album of pop bliss. This shift in sound allows the listener to fully appreciate the ambient intricacies of tracks like “You’ll Be Laughing,” and the intensity in the verses of the riff-driven “Minor Keys”.
In lieu of a drum pad, Sam Franklin’s snappy percussion helps bring the songs to life. It should also be noted that this is the first album that features Luka Usmiani on bass. The addition of both members helps the recordings sound a bit more pert and dynamic.
Facetiously titled Romantic Comedy, Alex and Ian switch off singing duties, crooning about heartbreak, growing pains (“Just to say it will always be the same/and just to see change/it wouldn’t be enough to keep you”) and the suburban woes that New Jersey bands seem to all know too well (“Today forever/I’ll go with whatever/follow whoever can drag me along”)–all wrapped in sugar-coated melodies juxtaposed with brilliantly catchy guitar riffs.
Big Trouble’s songwriting technique flourishes on their sophomore release. The tracks generally run a little longer than earlier efforts, with listless, Sunday morning hooks blanketed over the choruses, post-choruses, bridges and outros. Numbers like “Minor Keys,” “Sad Girls,” and “Time Bomb” are almost anthemic in that regard.
The band has matured a great deal since just a year ago when Ian and Alex released Worry, the fruit of their bedroom recordings. With a little more room to breath, Big Troubles has fully utilized talented producer Mitch Easter, who has recorded the likes R.E.M. and Pavement.
Even those who stay true to the lo-fi aesthetic will appreciate this record. The 90’s-era vibes of Worry are still prevalent on Romantic Comedy; they’re just presented in a cleaner, more developed atmosphere. From the first song to the tenth, the album is completely unattackable. It’s unapologetically poppy, yet delightfully foggy and complex.
Big Troubles really outdid themselves with this one. It wouldn’t be a stretch at all to call this record one of the year’s best thus far.
Romantic Comedy comes out on September 22. It’s a perfect reflective Fall album. Put it on, think about when you used to walk around all day just to kill time. And how you’d plan detours just to pass the house of the one that got away.
1. She Smiles for Pictures
3. Make It Worse
4. Sad Girls
5. You'll Be Laughing
6. Minor Keys
7. Softer than Science
8. Time Bomb
10. Never Mine