Big Star & the Clean- cult rock faves survive & thrive
By now it's a standard rite in the annals of ye olde rock journalism that we must toast our favorite cult artists as part of the pre-punk canon- there's the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, New York Dolls, Modern Lovers. And then there's power pop gods, Big Star.
It's hard for me to argue against this early 70's Memphis group as I grew up with them even if I didn't hear their until years after they first broke up. Their 1972 debut, wishfully/grandly titled #1 Record (not even close), was this lush, elaborate breeze of music that seemed to strange yet familiar to me- maybe because it consumed earlier 60's pop styles and churned it out into something new & foreign. Helmed by obsessive Chris Bell, he split, leaving former Boxtop Alex Chilton to carry on the band. Then there was 1974's Radio City, one of my all-time faves and the last proper album the group made before disintegrating. RC was much sparer but no less inspired, or weird- no less than AC's vision of power pop as done by a full-fledged proudly out-of-step weirdo.
Though the two albums have been paired together before, they've now been reissued on CD by Fantasy. On vinyl, the albums are reissued by no less than the small Memphis label that originally put them out, Ardent, which was able to carry on as a famous studio which hosted the likes of R.E.M., Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, the White Stripes and many others. Also, Star drummer Jody Stephens has worked there as studio manager since 1987. Fitting then that Star's wonderful first two albums now come home to Ardent.
Read more about the reissue at the Concord Music site. And as for Star, hopefully you know that they've been reunited since the early 90's with Clinton, Stephens and the guys from the Posies but that's another story... Also, for the hardcore power pop nuts, Rhino has a Star box set coming out this Sept but that's yet another story again...
And speaking of cult rockers, another hopefully familiar name is coming back too. New Zealand rockers the Clean were also not heralded enough outside of their homeland and also went the break-up and reformation route. Now readying their first record in years, Mister Pop in September on Merge, here's a take of that in the form of a free download: In the Dreamlife U Need a Rubber Soul. How true that is, ain't it?