Album Review: Big Talk - 'Big Talk'

Heard the one about the drummer who made a great solo record?

Pic: Press
  • Release Date 18 Jul, 2011
  • Producer Joe Chicarelli
  • Record Label Little Oil/ Epitph
  • Fact The first single from the album is 'Getaways'
7 / 10
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: BIG TALK (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 ‘Katzenjammer’, 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, ‘Big Talk’ has no time for subtlety. Its mission is cheese, connoisseur-style, lovingly slathered across a widescreen shot of “heartbreak towns” (‘Katzenjammer’), “trouble with the law” (‘Girl At Sunrise’), 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 – Mona’s, say – ‘Big Talk’ would be a car crash. And even though penultimate song ‘Fine Time To Need Me’ wouldn’t sound out of place on a Shania Twain 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 ‘Getaways’ is about a backstabber spinning away on his Cuban heels over gigantic ’80s drum machine snaps, ‘Girl At Sunrise’ 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 ‘No Whiskey’ and ‘Big Eye’ will only please any weirdo who ever wondered what Nirvana 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; ‘Big Talk’ is a record to be roared while stood atop the bar, and then deny all knowledge of the next day.

Laura Snapes

First Listen: Ronnie Vannucci, 'Big Talk'

Ronnie Vannucci Jr. At Hard Rock Calling 2011 - Interview
The Killers Ronnie Vannucci Goes Solo
Video: The Killers Ronnie Vannucci Goes Solo

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