By now Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens, joined by the Posies Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer, make up the official second-gen Big Star, with a live album (1993s Columbia) and a series of subsequent live dates on their résumé.
In Space, the first studio album from the 12-year-old lineup, at first sounds a little tentative, but its a fine record anyway, shot through with the sweet and shambling tendencies that mark Big Stars canonical releases. And if theres nothing on In Space that measures up to the bands best music, virtually all of the songs here meet the criteria of Big Stars very good music, which is happiness enough.
Bookending cuts Dony and Makeover recall Third/Sister Lovers fuzzy, fractured beauty, while the best of the records slower tracks, Lady Sweet and Hung Up with Summer, would have fit comfortably on Radio City. Several songs more directly echo Chiltons solo work, especially the goofy funk of Love Revolution and a cover of the Olympics R&B workout, A Whole New Thing. This is the sort of performance Chilton tended to approach with lazy cynicism in the past, but here he sounds unflaggingly energetic and alive, for the first time in years.
In Space isnt (forgive the pun) a stellar record. But make no mistake, its a good one, and it contains the first music Alex Chiltons made in about two decades that even approaches justifying the rep thats grown up around him. Thank you friends, indeed.
Eric Waggoner writes about books for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].