Heard the one about the drummer who made a great solo record?
If your parents name you Ronald Dante Vannucci and you spend your career literally playing second tambourine to a pink suit-wearing, feather-epauletted, socially awkward Mormon, well then son, you’re gonna need some really big moves when it comes to a solo effort. Luckily, as far as opening swings go, Ronnie’s practically got a hole in one. Firstly, he’s gone and called his downtime lark with guitarist Taylor Milne (an old friend with whom he was previously in a band called Expert On October) a “project”. Not an album: a project. Secondly, to really hammer its scope home, he’s given it a proper projectable name: [b]BIG TALK[/b] (caps lock compulsory as far as we’re concerned). It’s so brilliantly, ridiculously, cock-of-the-walk awful that there’s no way it can fail – and if it does, well, then he can pretend it was a joke all along.
Right from the saloon-door slamming entrance of opener [b]‘Katzenjammer’[/b], we’re met with portentous, Eno-like synthy pulses, before what’s practically a parody of a Springsteen riff crashes in like a speedboat through the roof, epic as Michael Bay sporting a whopping CGI hard-on that transforms into a napalm-firing robot. And then – the first line seals the deal. “It’s not too early for whiskey; it’s not too early for smoke”, Ronnie croons, and it’s all over. In case you need it spelling out, [b]‘Big Talk’[/b] has no time for subtlety. Its mission is cheese, connoisseur-style, lovingly slathered across a widescreen shot of “heartbreak towns” ([b]‘Katzenjammer’[/b]), “trouble with the law” ([b]‘Girl At Sunrise’[/b]), booze and babes (the twin mainstay of almost every single song). It’s a major motion picture of Ronnie on a rearing steed, righting and ruing wrongs, and flagrantly ripping off Springsteen, Petty and the Eagles at every juncture.
In the wrong hands – [a]Mona[/a]’s, say – ‘[b]Big Talk[/b]’ would be a car crash. And even though penultimate song [b]‘Fine Time To Need Me’[/b] wouldn’t sound out of place on a [a]Shania Twain[/a] album, with its barn dance pianos and heartachin’ chorus (“You picked a fiiiiine tiiiime to neeeeed meee!“), it’s still halfway amazing. At the end of the song, they’ve kept in a studio snippet where Ronnie laughs, “Don’t play drums when you’re drunk!” No, you know what – definitely do. Then pour the booze on them, set fire to the kit and get a naked woman to jump a white tiger through a hoop over it. That’s the difference between Ronnie’s and Brandon’s solo efforts – whereas Brandon’s was funny for the wrong reasons (“It’s 107°F and you’re looking for shade that no palm tree can provide!”), Ronnie’s tongue is so far in his cheek, it’s waggling out of his ear.
Single [b]‘Getaways’[/b] is about a backstabber spinning away on his Cuban heels over gigantic ’80s drum machine snaps, [b]‘Girl At Sunrise’[/b] bears the line, “I played a little rough with a thing called love”; this is not the behaviour, and these are not the words, of a man who takes himself seriously. Obviously, it’s no classic – the grizzly, acoustic-strumming of ‘[b]No Whiskey[/b]’ and ‘[b]Big Eye[/b]’ will only please any weirdo who ever wondered what [a]Nirvana[/a] would sound like as country outlaws and, naturally, the production throughout thrusts relentlessly on so many pistons that listening on headphones is actually painful. But Ronnie, like some handlebar-moustachioed Andrew WK of classic rock, didn’t make this for closed-off introspection; ‘[b]Big Talk[/b]’ is a record to be roared while stood atop the bar, and then deny all knowledge of the next day.
First Listen: Ronnie Vannucci, ‘Big Talk’
Ronnie Vannucci Jr. At Hard Rock Calling 2011 – Interview