In Loving Memory of... 
Artist: Big Wreck 
Label: Atlantic Records 

Playing the role of the prophet, let me forecast the future...I hereby predict that Big Wreck, the newest band from Boston, will be the Next Big Thing. Before you take me out back and stone me for suspected false prophecy, let me build my claim.  You see, sometimes MTV gets it right. Their VJs have been spinning the video for Big Wreck's first single, "The Oaf," like they've found the next Nirvana.  This song is all over the radio, climbing up Billboard's mainstream rock chart, and winning leagues of new fans.  And "The Oaf" isn't even the best song from this debut album; the best is yet to come.  Big Wreck have the meaty chops for mass appeal as well as a made-for-video image--they're a hit waiting to happen. 

Ian Thornley (vocals/guitar), Brian Doherty (guitar), Dave Henning (bass), and Forrest Williams (drums) met in 1992 at Boston's reputable Berklee College of Music.  Supposedly they spent more time jamming together than taking classes. Some of those theory lectures had to rub off on them a bit, though; they know how to make great, memorable music. Playing gigs in bars around Cambridge and Boston garnered them a strong  local following and the attention of Atlantic Records.  After signing on and releasing their first album, they embarked on a national tour last fall with Dream Theater.  1998 finds them sweeping the states with co-headliner, Creed. The rest as they say (whoever "they" are) is history being made today in a town near you.  I've seen them live.  Go! 

In Loving Memory of... unveils a variety of vigorous vibes ranging from full-on rockers to tender heart-felt ballads.  Doubtless, they have a league of influences that read like a who's who of some of the great bands of rock and roll history.  The Soundgarden influence is most notable, but listen closely and you'll hear hints of Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Queen, Queensryche, Rush, Ry Cooder, Son House, The Who, and just about every great blues band you've ever heard plus a few Southern Fried Rock bands to boot.  The result here is visceral and dramatic without being overly showy.  Big Wreck aren't posers with a penchant for showboating their considerable instrumental skills. Rather, they take those skills and apply them toward crafty song work.  The song is central to what they do.  The result is a batch of sweaty hard rock tunes with heart.  As well as some great chunky guitar licks and riff-driven solos, time-changing drumming all over the map, and powerful bellowing that rises from a whisper to a shout.  You'll not only sing along, you'll get your own air-band (fingers, head, toes) going, too.  Most admirably, the lyrics here show a surprising sensitivity to the folly and foibles of failed relationships.  I'm guessing here that the album title laments a doomed relationship.  Most of the songs continue that theme.  For example, in  "That Song" (the single that is sure to make them a household name) the central figure reminisces about his lost love whenever he hears a particular song on the radio:    

    So I always get nostalgic with that song, but in my room it's forced. 
    It has to be in some car across the street. 
    And I always catch the back of your head in a crowd. 
    Don't turn around; it's never you; it ruins those memories. 
    And those photos are great if I catch them with the side of my eye 
    but if I stare it just turns into you and me.  
    We're just standing there. 
    And now it's over, when you hear me scream at the top of my lungs. 
    And when you hold him, would you hear me scream at the top of my lungs?. 
    And then I whisper, but did you hear me scream at the top of my lungs. 
    And so you crank that song... 
    I really love that tune 
    Man, I love that song 
    I really love that song. 
    (Insert guitar onslaught here...)
Moreover, principal wordsmith Ian Thornley turns many memorable phrases here and there as well.  Here are a few noteworthy examples:  

I'll scale the wall, only if you feed the rope. 
My opinions.  They don't mean that much to me. 
And if I'm a slob, I never looked at it that way. 
I still recall the effort to forget. 
Keep my name under the white out. 

And perhaps the best of all: 
 I'd rather see you hit me. 

You get the picture.  These are love-gone-wrong songs with hope for the future.  Honest, heartfelt, and catchy as in "Prayer," when the singer turns to prayer after bemoaning the pain that results from telling lies. This stuff isn't Bob Dylan, but Ian Thornley writes candidly and honestly about the reality of relationships without sounding as morose as Robert Smith of The Cure, as vengeful as Alanis Morisette, or as blase as Van Halen.  Love ''em and leave ‘em isn't their banner, either.  In fact, the only song that approaches sex-obsession is "Falling Through the Cracks," and it's delivered with tongue firmly in cheek.  

Whether it's in the uniqueness of their first single, "The Oaf," the pop perfection of "That Song," the tenderness of "By the Way," or the anthem quality of "Overemphasizing," Big Wreck impresses and captures your attention. They are applaudable for their ability to infuse their work with a freshness not found in all those angry bands out there, as well as a wholesome candor and wit.  Plus, they've built their own sound on some of the greatest rock and roll that was ever forged before them.   

While the language may offend some, their many positive sentiments ring true. File this under air-band action.  If time and exposure proves me right, remember you heard it hear first at The Phantom Tollbooth -- the prodigious predictor for our times.   You can safely put your stones down now.  I rest my case.

By Steven Stuart Baldwin