Right from the off, it’s easy to identify New York noise rock outfit Big Ups’ musical evolution on Before A Million Universes.
Embracing a more sinister, nuanced approach than they did on their debut, 2013’s upbeat, punk-influenced Eighteen Hours of Static, the album more fully accepts noise rock tropes while retaining the attitude of the band’s debut.
Throughout the majority of the album, Big Ups take a quiet/loud dynamic approach to their song writing, sometimes changing abruptly between the two.
Half-sung, half-spoken verses on Before A Million Universes crop up a lot, and help the aforementioned quiet/loud dynamic. Vocals are almost mumbled at times, and are reflected in accompanying reserved instrumentation. Likewise, the louder parts of the album feature loud guitars and screamed vocals.
On standout track National Parks, about single mothers, a creepy talked-sung verse shows restraint and is only occasionally interrupted by screams of “Because she’s all alone, you know she’s all alone”, before returning to its previous unsettling calmness. The track does eventually change into a more full-sounding, rockier composition after some build up, packing a sincere emotional punch.
Conversely, the equally excellent Meet Where You Are is quiet and understated in its first half, building up somewhere around the middle before erupting into pure rage afterwords. So Much You takes a similar approach, with its distorted, almost doomy riff and anguished screaming coming almost out of nowhere near the end of the song, and then disappearing, allowing eerie ambience to return for a few seconds before erupting again.
Posture takes a slightly more conventional approach to this (if ‘conventional’ was a word you could describe Big Ups with, with a straight face), having quiet verses and loud choruses.
Another highlight is Capitalized, which can be described, in a word, as mad. Eschewing the ‘quiet’ part of the dynamic entirely, it never lets up in its two minutes and ten seconds on Before A Million Universes, while still managing to go many interesting places musically.
Punkier tracks like Knight and Proximity Effect still have more noise elements in them, such as the former’s feedback outro.
The album ends on Yawp, a nihilistic, droning track that stomps for a few seconds near its end before returning to bleakness.
Before A Million Universes is a fantastic exercise in understated noise rock nuance, and while it may take a while to click (more so than Big Ups’ debut, at any rate), when it does, it is rewarding and gives the listener much to explore. A fine example of musical evolution – it develops the band’s sound without abandoning its core – and an excellent album in its own right.
Standout Tracks: National Parks, Capitalized, Proximity Effect
For Fans Of: Butthole Surfers, Future of the Left, Perfect Pussy
Written by: Alan Cunningham