In Space

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 (1993’s 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 it’s a fine record anyway, shot through with the sweet and shambling tendencies that mark Big Star’s canonical releases. And if there’s nothing on In Space that measures up to the band’s best music, virtually all of the songs here meet the criteria of Big Star’s very good music, which is happiness enough.

Bookending cuts “Dony” and “Makeover” recall Third/Sister Lovers’ fuzzy, fractured beauty, while the best of the record’s slower tracks, “Lady Sweet” and “Hung Up with Summer,” would have fit comfortably on Radio City. Several songs more directly echo Chilton’s 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 isn’t (forgive the pun) a stellar record. But make no mistake, it’s a good one, and it contains the first music Alex Chilton’s made in about two decades that even approaches justifying the rep that’s grown up around him. Thank you friends, indeed.

Eric Waggoner writes about books for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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