And now that it’s an eye for an eye, we are bringing out the worst, you and I. Remember when we called it a home, now it seems like that was a lie. —from the song “Useless”
Long after key changes, extended guitar solos, seven-minute tracks, and songs fading out were deemed taboo in popular music, Canadian rock band Big Wreck ignores the pressure to be trendy. Instead, masterfully using all the tools available to them, they’ve created an innovative album that will satisfy the musical longings of listeners who are bored with the simple hooks and obsession of new sounds found in current popular music.
Big Wreck formed in 1994 when four students at Berklee College of Music in Boston met and began jamming. They signed on to a major label in 1997 and had a couple of hits from their first album, including “The Oaf,” a song that pushed the boundaries of radio-friendly, formulaic music with a unique guitar solo mid-song. After a sophomore release that didn’t fare well commercially, the band took a 10-year break while lead guitarist and singer Ian Thornley pursued a solo career with a heavier sound.
The band reunited in 2012 and has released three more albums, including Grace Street, which came out this past February. Ian Thornley originates from Toronto, and Big Wreck has garnered a large fan following in Canada, with many of their past hits still in rotation on Canadian radio.
Over 60 minutes long, Grace Street features 13 well-crafted songs, including “Skybunk Marché,” a seven-minute instrumental track. Thornley’s voice, a mixture of sweet falsetto and gritty power, often switches mid-phrase, providing meaningful emotion to each word. He also shows measured virtuosity on guitar, sometimes playing at a blistering speed and other times slowly building on a riff to ensure that the listener can join in on the journey of the solo.
The album tackles the tough emotions of lament and regret felt when a significant relationship becomes dysfunctional and eventually breaks. Thornley provides a window into his vulnerabilities and shortcomings, sometimes admitting wrong and taking responsibility for the brokenness around him.
The album offers glimpses of light, including the title, which is taken from a line in the song called “The Receiving End.” This acoustic song has a ¾ time signature and moderate tempo; it offers hope for the future. The singer admits that the past was hard but knows that the sun will shine again.
Despite there being few overtly spiritual themes, Grace Street is a valuable piece of popular art for Christians to engage with, showcasing musical talent with powerful vocals and guitar as well as representing the common human experience of deep pain when important relationships seem broken beyond repair. (Rounder)