LP Review: Big Star – Nothing Can Hurt Me (Omnivore, 2013)
The slow catching flame of Big Star’s belated renown has recently been stoked by a feature-length documentary, and now by this Record Store Day double-LP of period demos and alternate mixes, and a few remixes made for the film. Depending on your viewpoint, the new mixes may be revelatory and revisionist, or both. The period material, however, will be welcomed by all of the band’s fans. For those who’ve been wearing out copies of #1 Record, Radio City and Third since their original appearances on vinyl, even the slightest variations in these tracks will prick your ear with something new. The quality of the original recordings and the condition of the tapes remains impressive, and the opportunity to hear these variations on much loved themes (decorated in a few spots with studio chatter) is a rare opportunity. What appeared to the public as highly polished diamonds turned out to be – perhaps unsurprisingly if you ever stopped to think about it – the results of a lot of intention and hard work. The seeds of the final tracks are here, even in the demo of “O My Soul,” but not in the balance that’s been etched into fans’ ears.
Robert Gordon’s liner notes from Big Star Live capture the feeling perfectly: “You find an old picture of your lover. It dates from before you’d met, and though you’d heard about this period in his or her life, seeing it adds a whole new dimension to the person who sits across from you at the breakfast table. You study the photograph and its wrinkles, looking for clues that might tell you more about this friend you know so well–can you see anything in the pockets of that jacket, can you read any book titles on the shelf in the background. You think about an archaeologist’s work. When you next see your lover, you’re struck by things you’d never noticed. The skin tone, the facial radiance–though the lamps in your house are all the same and the sun does not appear to be undergoing a supernova, he or she carries a different light. As strikingly similar as the way your lover has always appeared, he or she is also that different. You shrug and smile. Whatever has happened, you like it. That’s what this recording is about.” CD, CD/DVD and double-LP black vinyl editions are forthcoming.