Canadian rock band Big Wreck’s fourth album, Ghosts, is an ambitious recording with some subtle excursions from the group’s usual instrumental fireworks.
The group and its leader, singer/guitarist Ian Thornley, have always been overachievers in the vanguard of musical prowess.
Such ambitions have led to larger-than-life songs like Blown Wide Open and The Oaf, which established the group as a formidable unit back in the ‘90s.
Big Wreck’s technical wizardry is honed into creative texturing and moodier material than some earlier recordings and some of these tracks reveal crystalline melodies and inspired lyric/vocal work from Thornley (Diamonds).
His full throated yowl on Hey Mama is impressive in all of its force – a bit cliché, but it fits.
There are other moments like that on Ghosts (I Digress, Friends), but deeper tangents also and that’s where the record gets interesting.
The album opens on a cryptic note before setting into a hazy desert vista of low-tuned guitar riffage on A Place to Call Home. Thornley hints at some echoed Gregorian chanting as he follows the song’s snaky hook to its conclusion. The same mood is followed on Still Here, a dreamy acoustic-based song topped up with phasing and echo.
On the title track, the band works up a tapestry of counter-rhythms, riffs and melodies underneath Thornley’s vocal to create a captivating piece that owes its power to atmospheric expression rather than technical prowess.
Off and Running approaches visual grandeur with its yearning chorus and Beatle-esque hooks.
When Big Wreck moves outside conventional chops-based mega rock and into moodier material, the songs become noticeable and gain power and atmosphere.
– Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews new music releases for The Morning Star every Friday.