First Listen: Ronnie Vannucci, ‘Big Talk’

He’s always had the patter, has Killers drummer Ronnie Vannucci (aka The Interesting One) and it’s no surprise that he’s on ebullient form on his debut solo album. But given Ronnie’d never really sung properly until last September, is it all mouth, no trousers? Let’s check ‘Big Talk’’s inside leg measurement, shall we?

Well, you can’t say he doesn’t know how to make an entrance. A long, slow glimmering dawn of 80s soft-rock synths is suddenly lit up by Ronnie’s fiery “HYAH!” and a Who-ish explosion of drums, before we’re hit with the hands-down best first line of the year: “It’s not too early for whiskey”. And that’s just the START. With feelgood Tom Petty guitars, and a hard-rockin’ bridge, the similarity of Ronnie and Brandon’s vocals make this sound a bit like Springsteen-love-era Killers road-tripping into the sun with ZZ Top.

A gently chugging verse with the oh-so-slightest cod-reggae tinge in the keyboard vamps blooms into a all-American air-punch of a Tom Pettyesque chorus. The guitar lines are the kind that open up vistas of escape (“You said you want out / you said you want everything / Baby won’t you take it from my cold dead hands”…) alternating between edgy Television tones and full-on Eagle-cheese. We’re already getting the feeling Ronnie Vannucci would be an awesome guy to hang out with. Imagine if you got him and Andrew WK in the same room! The talk would be big, the party would be hard.

Ronnie Vannucci

Under Water
Sort of liked a smoothed-out, calmed-down Strokes, like someone gave them a back massage on a yacht, a pint and a spliff and made them listen to loads of Bachman Turner Overdrive. There’s a great bit in the bridge where Ronnie drops into comedy tough-guy voice and slurs something like “who’s there hanging on your side/Take this kiss like cyanide”. According to the big ol’ HELL YEAH chorus, we don’t have to keep Ronnie underwater; this is because he is neither a spent nuclear fuel rod, or a goldfish.

The Next One Living
A step down in pace with simple, repetitive lyrics, Creedence-does-Beatles vibes, countryish, romantic and regretful.

A narky-sounding coil of feedback leads into a great whacking rhythm, spangled with touches of proper Steve Winwood-style 80s keys. Not quite a power ballad, but only a couple of twists on the wind-machine dial and a abrasive riff away from it.

No Whiskey
Goodness, is Ronnie having some sort of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Iver moment, all fingerpicked and bare and ghostly ? Admittedly this is rougher and more bluesy than that, but still, please don’t grow a straggly beard and go and live in a shed, Ronnie.

Girl At Sunrise
Back to Big Talk bigtime feelgood radio pop. There’s something about the sunbrowned tone of those guitars and Ronnie’s big cuddly voice that just makes your guts grin.

White Dove
This one is harder country-rocking, with sassy handclaps and a punchy, slightly glammy chorus.

Living In Pictures
A nagging lick, a rush of drums, and Ronnie duetting with himself, again this one’s got touches of The Whos about it (Ronnie did recently tell NME that he “had a kinship with that crazy motherfucker” Keith Moon).

Hunting Season
Another solid steering wheel tapper with a touch of glitz in those ritzy keys and some backing ooh-oohs.

A Fine Time To Need Me
YES – I love a proper ‘one-two-three’ count in, and this belter is certainly big enough to merit it, all twangin’ and swaggering round like cock of the walk. “Oh, darlin’, why you gotta give me problems” crows Ronnie, before a giddy melodic rush of a chorus.

Big Eye
A slightly grungy blues mooch, with scratchy, PJ Harveyish guitar. Ronnie’s on about whiskey again. Well, at least we know what to get him for Christmas. And for breakfast.

The verdict:
Well, we’ve checked and everything about this is indeed BIG. The talk, the drums, the personality, the production, the tunes, the general levels of ludicrousness. Too big to fail, you might say, but then we’ve heard that one before, right?