THANKS, BIG DIPPER!
Bob in Pittsburgh | 04/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Let me start by saying that I've been a passionate music fan my entire life, throughout all genres of rock & roll, and I consider Boston's Big Dipper - Gary Waleik, Bill Goffrier, Jeff Oliphant, Steve Michener - to be one of the greatest rock bands I have ever heard. Incredible twin-lead guitar interplay between Goffrier & Waleik and witty offbeat lyrics from shared lead vocals (Goffrier & Waleik again, complementing each other to no end) combined with a powerful Oliphant-Michener rhythm section to result in one of the most unique bands this country has ever produced.
The new 3-disc Supercluster anthology on Merge Records begins with their debut EP Boo-Boo, an off-the-rails adrenaline rush that always holds melody at the core of its shambolic tunes. Faith Healer and Loch Ness Monster are indie-rock classics, with my personal favorite being the absolutely insane Wrong In The Charts, with its thunderous guitars and references to vital cultural icons such as Gabby Hayes and Jacques Chirac. I'm a mess indeed.......
Then it's on to full-length debut Heavens, possibly the most unique and varied of Dipper's releases. Running all over the map from jangle-pop landmarks She's Fetching and All Going Out Together, to hard-rocking Easter Eve and Mr. Woods, to the mandolin and Oliphant-locomotive drumbeat driving Man O' War, the rousing anthem When Men Where Trains, and the dark twists & turns of the superb Lunar Module, all with the ever-inventive guitars and powerhouse drumming, this album most shows the originality and versatility of Big Dipper.
Disc 2 revolves around terrific 2nd full-length Craps and sees Dipper in a bit of a transitional mode, with songs that are a little more smooth and a lot more pretty, but without the band losing a bit of their distinctive sound. Opener Meet The Witch is one of their crowning achievements, a gorgeous pop masterpiece with each pristine verse rising to meet a grand chorus complete with Byrds-like harmonies. A melancholy mood runs through a few of the best songs: the lovely Bonnie, with its amazing guitar intro & solo; Semjase, which starts bird-chirping solemn and builds into an epic second half; and the haunting Bells Of Love. Not all is mellow though, as the bouncing Hey! Mr. Lincoln and bass-chugging humorous true story Ron Klaus Wrecked His House lend some classic Dipper wit, while A Song To Be Beautiful is best described by Michener in the liner notes as lovely chaos. Disc 2 is rounded off with a load of bonus tracks including the frantic guitar workout Lou Gehrig's disease, the hyper-speed punk of You're Not Patsy, and a tremendous demo (this is a demo?!) of Slam track Life Inside The Cemetery.
Disc 3 contains the post-Slam album that for many years was "lost in the stars" titled Very Loud Array. Far from an odds & ends collection, this contains many songs that are on a par with Dipper's very best and clearly shows that they had a lot more to offer as they soldiered on after the break with Epic. Highlights include the energetic ode to Elvis Wake Up The King, Oliphant's fantastic lead vocal turn on the ultra-catchy Edith (Row) that answers the eternal question of how to successfully bring a Briggs & Stratton into a singalong pop song, bizarre & moody Restaurant Cloud, country-rock Dead River, the exceptionally unique Approach Of A Human Being (where Goffrier's spacey tremolo battles Waleik's jagged crunch throughout), and ending the set is the extraordinary Extraordinary Worm.
The often-maligned major label debut Slam is not represented here. However I've always felt that while Slam certainly suffers from weak production, this album still contains a half-dozen of Dipper's very best songs, namely Love Barge, Impossible Things (Before Breakfast), Bony Knees Of Nothing, Life Inside The Cemetery, Blood Pact, and Picnic. Hopefully someday this album will also receive the remastering job and reissue it deserves.
Thanks to Merge Records and producer Gary Waleik for doing such a wonderful job with this reissue. This is a beautiful first-class package from Bill Goffrier's always-attractive cover art, through a foldout digipak containing glossy photos, entertaining liner notes from the band on each song, and insightful essays from Waleik and Boston radio personality Tom Scharpling (also a catalyst in the upcoming reunion shows). The remastering job is excellent, bringing out the power and nuances of the songs and making them sound as though they could have been recorded yesterday. Put quite simply, despite a traditional guitars / bass / drums lineup, nobody plays guitars and drums quite like this and Big Dipper sounds like nobody else. If you consider yourself a rock music fan, particularly of genre labels such as "indie-rock", "post-punk" or "power-pop", and have not heard Big Dipper, you have no idea what you're missing. Please do yourself a favor and find out.......
It's been a long wait..
D. Bellard | 03/24/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"..but finally, oh yes finally, Big Dipper have a proper anthology, collecting all of their Homestead material plus some post-Slam tracks. Great liner notes, including members thoughts on each of the tracks. Kudos to Merge for putting this out, and lets see if Big Dipper gets together for a reunion tour."
Lobster Coast | Portland Maine | 03/26/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Thoroughly excited about this release. Hiya! Sarah from WMPG/ME/SF here (20 years later). Decided to Google the band for giggles and saw your myspace page and learned about the anthology. I couldn't be more pleased. B.D. was always one of my favorite bands from the era. Lord only knows what I did with all of the vinyl I once had, but not a single Big Dipper record made it alive. I may write to you on your myspace page eventually to say hi, but right now I want to let everyone else out there who might read these reviews know it is worth every penny to buy your music - all of it! Great stuff and makes me incredibly nostalgic for the 80s/90s Boston sound. I will keep an eye out to see if you are going to be playing out within driving distance from Portland!"