Big Talk – ‘Straight In No Kissin’’

Glam swagger and Springsteen rock combine on the Killers man's "toothier" new LP

The second track of ‘Straight In No Kissin” finds Ronnie Vannucci Jr name-checking the late, great Chicago songwriter Warren Zevon. To those who heard Big Talk’s self-titled 2011 debut, this will make perfect sense. Zevon was, after all, the godfather of tongue-in-cheek heartland rock and beloved of Bruce Springsteen, and while Vannucci might not possess his twisted, subversive humour, he very much built the first Big Talk album around knowingly over-the-top stadium anthems.

The buzz about this follow-up – the second Killers’ solo offering in as many months, following Brandon Flowers’ ‘The Desired Effect’ – has been less about tongues and cheeks, and more about teeth. Vannucci has called ‘Straight In No Kissin” more “toothy” than ‘Big Talk’, and sure enough, much of the self-aware fist-pumping has been replaced with a kind of snarling, glam-punk swagger.

Written largely during The Killers’ 2013 world tour, the lyrics still occasionally sound like they were created by an online Springsteen cliché generator (“Pack your suitcase for a ride”, “Feeling like a million bucks of payback”), but this is altogether rougher, dirtier terrain than Vannucci has ever explored with his main band.

Opener ‘Hold That Line’ sets the record’s stall out perfectly, combining growling guitars with howling vocals, while ‘La Rue d’Awakening’ and ‘Neon’s Not Enough Light’ both tear along at a pleasingly moshpit-friendly pace. These songs may not qualify as ‘punk’ at all – your average Bad Brains fan would dismiss them out of hand – but it does feel like Vannucci’s loosening his belt a little.

That said, there’s still plenty on here to satisfy the diehards. Echoey, stomp-clap anthem ‘What The Night Can Do’ and lead single ‘What Happened To Delisa?’ are tailor-made for top-down highway driving, and the infectious ‘I’ve Been Sentimental Lately’ sounds like Springsteen re-working Weezer’s ‘Islands In The Sun’.

‘Straight In No Kissin” won’t garner the same attention as Brandon’s solo ventures, but it’s catchy and uplifting and a lot of fun. Ultimately, even when Vannucci tries to stray into the promised “toothier” territory, his passion for melodic, heartstring-tugging soft rock usually wins the day. You can take the boy out of The Killers…

Tom Ellen