Monday, March 27, 2006

Here's a "My Obscure Favorite Album" trump card... You're Welcome

In the summer of 1974 a desperate and drug addled Alex Chilton crawled into Memphis’ Ardent Studios to create one of the most harrowing and avant masterpieces in rock history. Much like Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over The Sea, Big Star’s Sister Lovers evokes the spirit, imagery, and expressionism of the 1920’s surrealist movement.
After the release of the Chilton controlled Radio City, Big Star founder Chris Bell left the band and began recording as a solo artist. Before Bell's untimely death in 1978, he managed to record an albums worth of material that was posthumously released entitled I Am The Cosmos. However, he made no contribution to Sister Lovers.
Thus, with the exception of drummer Jody Stephens (who takes over lead vocals on the sublime “For You”) and producer/multi instrumentalist Jim Atkinson, Sister Lovers is basically an Alex Chilton solo album
1974 found Chilton battling with severe clinical depression and overwhelmed with frustration due to Big Star’s lack of success and recognition. Moreover, after being screwed over and misled time and time again, Chilton harbored an extreme distrust of the recording industry in general.
So, what did he do? He created pop music’s spookiest, most depressing, and strangest album during a time when Olivia Newton John and the Bay City Rollers were ruling the pop charts. Even now in 2006 Sister Lovers feels contemporary in a way that other “ahead of their time albums” like Velvet Underground and Nico and Pet Sounds do not.
Do to its perceived lack of commercial appeal; Sister Lovers was shelved until 1978 when it was released in England. It wasn’t until 1992 that Sister Lovers obtained a nationwide US release. And the music…. Oh the music! Sister Lovers’ orchestral flourishes, sardonic lyrics, droning electric guitars, walls of distortion, erratic acoustic strumming, and touches of world percussion foreshadow everything from Joy Division to shoegazer and My Bloody Valentine to the more recent “freak folk movement”
Sister Lovers is perhaps the most underrated and influential piece of American pop/rock music. Truly essential.


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