Homestead Records EP
WHEN I FIRST SAW VOLCANO SUNS three years ago, they were a nascent three-piece outfit featuring drummer Peter Prescott, formerly of Mission of Burma. At the time, they were playing with the wretched Ben Vaughan Combo, opening up for a Violent Femmes show. The trio's songs were rough, half-improvised ditties with common foods like popcorn and margarine being the typical subject matter. It's no wonder I did not think much of them.
Well, the trio has proved me wrong--twice. Peter Prescott, of course, reformed Volcano Suns into one of Boston's best and most experimental bands. And the other two members of that primitive trio (guitarist Gary Waleik and bassist Steve Michener) have formed Big Dipper, a group with more obvious roots and less fervor for weird than Volcano Suns, but on the same track nonetheless.
While the general thrust behind the Suns seems to be an investigation of how little structure a song can have and still be a song, Big Dipper insert their bursts of oddity within relatively normal frameworks. All the songs on Dipper's debut EP, Boo-Boo, are vaguely recognizable forms of straight rock and roll, country or pop balladry. "Faith Healer," for example is a conventional rock tune made interesting by a contorted and bizarre riff, seemingly some sort of comment on the TV preacher of the title.
Similarly, "Wrong In The Charts" uses low vocal distortion to offset some Beatle-esque harmonies, and "San Quentin, CA" muddles a country ballad with a batch of terrific grunge. The best tune here is "Loch Ness Monster," an outlandish love song directed at Scotland's most famous anachronistic ichthyosaurus, more commonly known as "Nessie."
While Big Dipper could be a lot tighter--the rhythm section nearly falls apart during "San Quentin"--Boo-Boo is a worthwhile debut. Nothing on this disk is as immediately startling as Volcano Suns' "White Elephant," but then again this EP is a lot easier to listen to than the Suns' All Night Lotus Party. For those who like musical roots mixed in with sonic radicalism, Boo-Boo by Big Dipper is Boston's next big thing.