For those of you who’ve never heard of Alexisonfire, Rush, Our Lady Peace or Big Wreck, I apologize now if your first exposure to Canadian rock bands was Nickelback.  Here’s the basic difference between Chad Kroeger and Ian Thornley — Ian is a musician with something to say and he’s surrounded himself with true musicians in the band Big Wreck.  Another trademark that is oft-compared is Thornley’s voice.  He will inevitably be compared to ‘that guy out of Seattle,’ who’s set to release a new album this year with his early 90′s band after a decade-and-a-half long hiatus.

Big Wreck came onto the scene in 1997 (debut album In Loving Memory…) - towards the back end of the alternative era when Bush and Live were starting to crest.  They were a diamond in the rough in the truest sense of the words.  They went on to release a sophomore album in 2001 (The Pleasure and the Greed) before calling it quits or ‘hiatus’ or what-have-you.  Thornley would go on to release a fairly well received album (Come Again) in 2004 that was a bit harder sounding than the Big Wreck output – all the while maintaining the guy could write some fantastic arena rock without having to be cheesy about it.

Eleven years later and they’ve released a third full-length.  Thornley wears his influences heavily on his sleeve and hasn’t been afraid to flaunt them on any of the three albums in the Big Wreck discography.  The playbook has gotten deeper and the historic nods aid this album in allowing it to potentially be one of those albums that seldom collects dust in your collection.  Such a rich, classic vibe.  The best examples of this include ‘All Is Fair,’ with it’s obvious nods to Led Zeppelin and more specifically Jimmy Page.  That track segues nicely into ‘Control’ a standout track that starts off in the Dire Straits and Fleetwood Mac vein, before a dirty little solo sneaks in through a beautiful chorus.  The rhythm section on this is stellar as it holds the backbone of the song together.  They kind of remind me of Crazyhorse or The Band as the guitar solo rides out the final two minutes of the song.  They just don’t do it like that anymore kids….

Album single and namesake, ‘Albatross’ – I will admit on first listen I was somewhat underwhelmed but knew it would require additional listens.  By the third time, I saw the genius in it.  Is it a completely accessible single?  No, but it’s got that slow burn quality to it.  There are still those straight up rockers (album opener ‘Head Together’ and ”Rest of the World’) and those gritty little ditties that grind their way through fuzz-drenched feedback (‘You Caught My Eye’) – reminding of Hagar-led Van Halen or ZZ Top.

They can’t all be winners…the back end (i.e last couple of tracks) are a bit stock and the last track borders on Aerosmith early 90′s shlock.

Tail end of the album aside, if you want to get your money’s worth on a solid rock album this year – my money is on this one as a solid front-runner to end up on my year end list.  A mighty tasty return after being out of the scene for so longer.  Further fueling my long-standing opinion that rock is never dead.  It just takes time to marinate…

Grade: A-

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