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Recording > Aural Pleasure

Big Star: #1 Record/Radio City



Big Star got to power pop when it was fresh-squeezed from the Kinks and Beatles. Before the concept of mellow melodic rock with pop hooks became Hansonized and Jonas Brothered into a joke, the form was malleable enough to matter. Big Star’s 1972 debut, #1 Record, refracts the band’s Anglophilia through (extremely) white-boy blues rock (“Feels,” “Don’t Lie to Me,”), galactic country (“The Ballad of El Goodo”), too-precious psychedelia (“The India Song”), and pre-twee that manages to keep its dignity (“Thirteen”). Founding member Chris Bell quit during the recording of follow-up Radio City, leaving former Boxtop Alex Chilton to take the band further toward the edge. “September Gurls,” the pop song’s platonic ideal, nests comfortably amid the diluted acid rock (“Life Is White” Daisy Glaze”), rough-faced glam (“Mod Lang”), harmonized paranoia (“Morpha Too”), and fragmented beauty (“O My Soul”) that would anticipate Chilton’s 1974 cliff-dive masterpiece Third/Sister Lovers. This single-disc, double-album reissue is essential listening if you haven’t heard it, but, considering the reissue offers only two bonus tracks (single mixes of “O My Soul” and That ’70s Show theme “In the Street”), everyone who already owns the 1992 version should wait for September’s box-set release.

— Jeremy Martin

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