By Nick Erickson, Staff writer
Canada’s reserved rock stars Big Wreck have made a name for themselves over the last two decades, while still remaining relatively underground. From opening for Dream Theater in 1997 to an eight-year disbandment to 2014’s “Ghost,” the group has been through a lot to spread their art to all corners of the world. With their latest effort “Grace Street,” the band has honed in on their classic rock roots, while giving it their own ambitious flair.
Opening with frontman Ian Thornley’s beautiful voice in “It Comes As No Surprise,” it’s not long before an onslaught of guitars and drums bombards listeners. Thornley’s timbre is more refined than ever, favoring the likes of Mick Jagger. The repeating synchronization of the instruments toward the end of the track feels heavy and emotive, before smoothly transcending into softness.
Flowing from the first track into the next, “One Good Piece Of Me” is as energetic as one could hope for. The bass guitar and hi-hat licks give this track purpose and the feeling of a raging dance club. However, the band brings the tempo down for a more sentimental number on “Useless.” Thornley sings of being turmoil-ridden and distraught, though the angelic strums of an acoustic guitar and his lush vibrato are anything but dark.“Eventually the worrying ends. Where does it stop? Where do I begin? I never thought that I’d be the one. Towards a storm I usually run,” he says.
“Motionless” reinstates the momentum with a light drum groove, but now the guitars steal the spotlight. Reverb and effect-laden, the way the chords are used is intricate and lovely. These same guitars take on an aggressive form with the start of “Digging In,” before going into a chilled, lounge room vibe with an ambient chorus. As the track concludes, Thornley belts out his voice in a manor as if almost a nod to ACDC, while guitarist Brian Doherty wails on his six-string.
Further pushing the confines of a set genre is the eastern-esque intro of “The Arborist.” With the bright plucking of a sitar, the group toggles between traditional rock instrumentation and Japanese scales. The album concludes with the bass-driven “All My Fears On You.” The first 30 seconds alone would make The Cure proud. With the moodiness of the clean guitar loop and deep swell of the drums, Thornley reintroduces an acoustic riff to listeners as the track returns back into the way it started – not before resolving into a soaring guitar solo, of course.
If there is one thing that has kept Big Wreck running, it’s their aspiration to innovate. The group takes influence from an array of genres and notable artists yet never rehashes the same track twice. Whether a fan of the roughness of rock, the emotional punch of blues or even the experimentation of jazz, one can simply turn to Big Wreck for good music.