Big Star Small World



Long ago, tribute records were cast as well-intentioned tributes (duh) to deserving but preternaturally obscure artists; nowadays, they're just jack-off projects serving the egos of the producers and participants. This Big Star hommage du fromage doesn't get let off the hook for having originally been assembled back in 1999 (for the apparently now-defunct Ignition label) either. Big Star hasn't been considered "obscure" in more than a decade, and when you consider how safe the contributors play it here — only Kelly Willis' steel guitar'd, boot-scootin' version of "When My Baby's Beside Me" and the Afghan Whigs' atmosphere-draped "Nighttime" veer substantially past the Alex Chilton/Chris Bell comfort zone —there's not much to recommend these "well-intentioned," note-perfect and utterly snooze-inducing renditions. Unless you're a completist desperate for everything ever recorded by Matthew Sweet, the Gin Blossoms, Teenage Fanclub, Wilco, Whiskeytown or the Posies, best to pick up the original three Big Star LPs instead. To add ignominy to insult, the contemporary, Chilton/Posies incarnation of Big Star also appears on BSSW ("Hot Thing," previously part of 2003's Big Star Story anthology), which is gauche in the same way that videotaping a self-eulogy to be played at your own funeral is gauche. Chris Bell must be rolling in his grave.

Fred Mills writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to

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