by Gordon Phillips (@gordonmphillips)
Big Huge is a five-piece from New York City who recently released their debut LP, Cruel World, on Don Giovanni Records (Mikey Erg, Laura Stevenson, Mal Blum). Spanning eight songs and just 21 minutes, Cruel World is an easily digestible injection of energy, snark and nostalgia.
Cruel World opens with its title track, a brash and defiant opening statement backed by slashing eighth-note high-hats and a thumping bassline lifted straight from a time when basslines still “thumped.” In that same vein, many of Cruel World’s best components feel masterfully and deliberately “dated.” The lip-curled snarling vocals are distinctly overdriven, almost as if tracked straight through a transistor radio or blown hi-fi speaker. Mid-fidelity crash cymbals melt into the same EQ ranges as the distorted guitars. The drumset, while well recorded and clear, sounds flat and punchy as opposed to the booming production often found on modern rock records. Cruel World sits comfortably next to a Combat Rock or an All Mod Cons in terms of overall tone and production approach.
On songs like “Cruel World,” “Went Bad,” or “Don’t,” distorted guitars bounce back and forth between palm-muted rhythm passages and squealing vibrato-laden lead lines. These guitarists aren’t afraid to riff and for that, bless them. Cruel World’s cruise-controlled closer “House of No” is empirical evidence of such. The guitar tone itself isn’t far from the compressed and boxy production on the lead vocals, often letting the two blend together when their melodic postures weave in and out of each other’s respective sonic territory.
If the 300-word manifesto on their Bandcamp page wasn’t evidence enough, Big Huge also isn’t afraid to get overtly political—and when releasing a punk record in August of 2017, why should they be? As pointed out by Spark Magazine, Cruel World’s title track offers a scathing critique of American consumer-capitalism while the back-to-back barrage of “Cop Blue” and “Good Ol’ Boys” need little contextual explanation.
While not necessarily pushing the outer boundaries of experimentation or innovation, Big Huge’s sound is refreshing and pure. Cruel World is sure to not only keep present fans happy, but also appeal to a number of new listeners longing for new music from legendary bands long defunct. Put another way, if the opening backbeat to “Writhe” isn’t a reverent and intentional tribute to “Train in Vain,” it sure could be.