Music Reviews
Big Talk

Big Talk Big Talk

(Epitaph) Rating - 4/10

No one could blame The Killers for being restless. Their most recent LP, 2008’s Day and Age, peaked at #6 on the Billboard Top 200 and went platinum in 6 countries. In the nearly 3 years since its release, frontman Brandon Flowers released Flamingo, an aptly titled opus that was both a bit of a gamble and, ultimately, for the birds. Now it’s drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr.’s turn, and if nothing else, he affirms nomenclature as The Killers’ greatest solo accomplishment. Big Talk couldn’t possibly encapsulate the essence of his effort in any fewer words.

The record has many shortcomings, but all stem from the same issue: it’s boring. The arrangements are unexciting, the tempo throughout feels more drug along than propelled, and the drumming, backed by his BA in percussion from UNLV, is simple both in method and meter. This was his baby, his chance to break free of whatever stylistic stunting The Killers imposed. Any artistic impulses or asynchronous abstractions vetoed during collaborative songwriting were expressible here. What Big Talk shows is that innovative, interesting ideas either never existed or were shelved in favor of fan-friendly familiarity.

To his credit, Vannucci works with what little he’s got. Each number relies on strong verse-chorus structure, and he usually hits the refrain with enough expressive energy to draw contrast to its uninspired surroundings. Single Getaway emerges as a serviceable pop tune, and its shout-along melody is one of the few earworms embedded in Big Talk’s 12 tracks. The Next One Living features a moderately memorable mantra sandwiched between instantly forgettable stanzas. That may not sound like a highlight, but it’s marked improvement from what typically anchors the songs: a bland convergence of instruments and some repetitious phrase that's never more than somewhat stimulating.

More than anything, Big Talk reflects the Vegas background of its middling maestro. It’s an insubstantial construction coated with a superficial sheen, and the entire thing is built around a gamble. In this case, Vannucci wagers that, by polishing some pop hooks and emulating The Killers, these tracks will appeal to a wider audience than a more technical, progressive offering. It’s standing on 13 to avoid a bust while screaming "Blackjack!" It’s all Big Talk, and anyone with a passion for the game would rather support a riskier player.