By 2006 the Killers had taken their formula from stylized glam-pop to heartland rock, summoning Joshua Tree-era U2 and even bits of Lou Reed all within the arc of two albums. The lessons learned by their drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. during this period were evidentially taken to heart. His solo debut under the moniker Big Talk doesn’t stray very far from this comfort zone, drawing heavily from his tenure with the Killers.
In fact, Big Talk sounds exactly like a Killers album, except where the Killers took from glam, Big Talk is a throwback to tried and tested radio-worthy jams of pure Americana pop. Verses, choruses, solos, bridges and turnarounds are all in the right places, and most songs are blatantly obvious in this fashion. While it would be silly to say that using this structure is an inherently bad quality for a pop song, Big Talk has such a highly produced studio quality to it that the music offers almost no redeeming warmth. The synths, drums and heavily muted guitars are so compressed it feels like all of the character of the instruments have been strangled out.
The Killers sound is evident throughout Big Talk – vaguely New Wave songs are the primary feature here, blended with moments of power-pop and big choruses that follow the same uplifting dynamics throughout most of the album. It constantly seems like Vannucci tries to win his audience with pure enthusiasm, and as a result Big Talk comes off as an entirely gratuitous venture in songwriting.
As if referencing the Killers’ album arc, Big Talk moves into heartland rock and country jams as the album moves along. “Girl at Sunrise” is an overt callback to Springsteen, but lacks any of the soulful punch of the Boss; instead it just seems glossy and trite. The album’s true redeeming track however is “No Whiskey,” a mostly acoustic song that flows into a full band, finally breaking free of the album’s formula. The song takes a shot at being a bar room ditty, and its turnaround, “If I get that whiskey/ You know I ain’t comin’ home,” is jarring, if only because it stands out as one of the album’s few heartfelt moments.
Vannucci’s songs aren’t bad: they’re just redundant and they overtly reference his past. Moreover, everything on Big Talk simply blends into itself, as if these are just songs for the sake of songs. It feels like you could buy a pallet of them from a bulk store. Nevertheless, the album seems destined for pop glory, as it contains all of the key touchstones for instant gratification.
by Jordan Ardanaz
Key Tracks: No Whiskey