The second album of the groundbreaking band Big Wreck from Boston, this album combines the various talents of the band members into one music experience that has restored critics' good opinion in modern rock. According to Ian Thornley, the band's lead singer and guitarist:

"Putting out an album with 16 songs gives people a lot to chew on. But that was the idea. I think it's about time that people buying a CD get something for their money. Too many bands get the idea that they should focus on coming up with one really good song, and then a whole bunch of pale imitations of that."

Propelled by Thornwell's genius songwriting ability as well as the band's desire to break down the typical patterns found in rock today has created this beautiful album. To me, the most central thing about their music, and this album, is their combination of different types of guitar riffs and the gorgeous, floating tone of Thornwell's voice. They are not afraid to play around with chords in order to create something unusual that works for them. There are several notable highlights in the album.

Inhale
This track is one of my favorites on the album. I absolutely adore most of the work done in this song. The lyrics resound with me beyond the others, and the heavily drumming sound of the guitar is strongly supportive of the vocals — something that falls apart elsewhere in the album at times. The song is strong in most elements, and is powerful in its cries of "Can't you see you're blind?"

Knee Deep
Knee Deep is my another favorite song on this album. Thornley is really cuts loose on the vocals here; there is a lot of their characteristic atmospheric instrumentals, but I see that more as terrific support for the pleas of "Madness comes; it always does ..." and the other messages of this piece. The overall sense that I get from this song is the grinding, torturous depth of emotion on the part of the lyrics.

All By Design
All By Design is much more traditional in structure. One of my favorite parts of the song is how it smoothly rolls out of the chorus section into a section of grinding bass and percussion. The transitions which would appear blocky in many other instances occur easily here, guided again by their soaring, melodic emphasis on passionate vocals.

Mistake
Plunging bass rhythms mix with a continuous high pitched guitar sequence and a haunting vocal quality in the chorus to this track. I think that here is a good example of how atmospheric their work is; I often judge a piece of music by the sorts of imagery it conjures up. This track is wide open; Thornwell's voice and the guitar lines soar, but the combination of the bass work grounds it in the sorts of sorrow, loneliness, and desparation that I think are central to this song.

Ladylike
Ladylike is perhaps their best known track from this album. It's much more in line with the pop genre and was therefore mainstreamed into the MTV publicity circuit. However, the song stands on its own as an example of their great musicianship. Thornley shows that he's got a glorious talent at the banjo as well as the guitar, and the addition of this instrument gives a sense of liveliness to the piece. Probably the greatest highlight of the song is the long middle section of guitar work followed by a brief a cappella burst of the lyric "She's wishin'!" followed by a descent into the energetic guitar rhythms again.

Breakthrough
I don't like Breakthrough as much as I do the rest of the album, and I offer it as an example of what's bad about their music I think that they got a lot more disorganized with this song. Their harmonies really fell apart on this one and left me disoriented; their instrumentals and their vocal work diverged a bit too much. If they had worked a bit more on unifying the two I think that the piece would've been strengthened. It wasn't helped by several instances of odd drops in the beat that added to the confusion. The lyrics of this one were decent. I enjoyed the line from the chorus: "You know it's so much harder to float around than it is to hit the ground ..." Personally, I think it's the opposite way, but it certainly made me think about the meaning of the song a bit more.

West Virginia
This song is much more grounded than many of the others on the track. The depth of the tone of the piece is distinctly different from the rest of the album. Their chord progressions weren't as interesting as they usually are, however; they reminded me of other stuff I've heard and weren't indicitive of their usual inventive style. Overall, a sense of anguish ridden experience arises from the sound they produce which is happily right in line with the lyrics.

Here is a full track listing for the album:

  1. Inhale
  2. Undersold
  3. Knee Deep
  4. Everything Is Fine
  5. All By Design
  6. Mistake
  7. Ladylike
  8. The Pleasure & The Greed
  9. No Fault
  10. Breakthrough
  11. Ease My Mind
  12. Broken Hands
  13. Head In The Girl
  14. All Days are Numbered
  15. West Virginia
  16. Defined By What We Steal

The band's first album, In Loving Memory Of ..., represents a lot of the same characteristics that I see in this work. Combining the best of all of their music, That Song is far and away my favorite piece on their first album. This is due mostly to the partnership between the guitar and voice; the beauty of both is unsurpassed elsewhere on the album. Interludes of strong support from both bass and percussion follow, overtaking the sound for periods and readjusting the listener's focus. Hearing that album for the first time, I would recommend that piece in particular — it really acts as a good transition between the two albums.

The Pleasure and the Greed represents an excellent breakthrough for this group. Released in 2001, I think that it has done a lot to make a name for the band for the future. I think that it does some beautifully original things while remaining grounded in a solid sense of musicianship. Big Wreck is quickly becoming one of my favorite bands, due to their ablility to combine originality with my favorite aspects of rock.


Sources:

Quotation from Ian Thornley and the track listing is from www.bigwreck.com
All lyric references from http://www.afunk.com/bigwreck/

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