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From the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Third/Sister Lovers

Big Star

1978

Third/Sister Lovers
Album Summary

Third (reissued in 1985 as Third/Sister Lovers) is the third album by American rock band Big Star. Sessions started at Ardent Studios in September 1974. Though Ardent created promotional, white-label test pressings for the record in 1975, a combination of financial issues, the uncommercial sound of the record, and lack of interest from singer Alex Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens in continuing the project prevented the album from ever being properly finished or released at the time of its recording. It was eventually released in 1978 by PVC Records. After two commercially unsuccessful albums, Third documents the band's deterioration as well as the declining mental state of singer Alex Chilton. It has since gone on to become a cult album, and was placed at number 449 on Rolling Stone magazine's 2012 list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list. Its reputation growing with time, the album moved up to number 285 on Rolling Stone magazine's 2020 listing. The album is also included in Robert Dimery's book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Wikipedia

Rating

2.77

Votes

11096

Genres

  • Rock
  • Pop
  • Folk

Reviews

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Fri Jul 02 2021
5

Third is a record that has only grown in my estimation over the years. While previous Big Star records represent the pinnacle of 70s power pop, Third deconstructs their approach amid the band's disintegration. Third stands on its own, but lands much better in context of the band's previous work. It's loaded with the cynicism of a band with so much unmet potential ("Thank You Friends") and yet contains so many moments of broken beauty ("Big Black Car", "Nighttime", "Take Care"). This tender/caustic tension is at the heart of this record's power. Its influence is evident on artists from REM to Wilco and Yo La Tengo. In fact, I often think of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot as a spiritual successor to this record. Their similarly fraught creation and off-kilter production follow much more pop-oriented efforts by each band. Favourite songs: "Big Black Car", "Kanga Roo", "You Can't Have Me", "Blue Moon", "Nightime"

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Wed Aug 03 2022
4

Big Star didn’t end. It imploded. Third is its wake.

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Fri Feb 12 2021
1

“Third/Sister Lovers” by Big Star (1978) Never heard this album nor this group, although I loved lead singer Alex Chilton’s #1 hit “The Letter” (1967) with the Box Tops when Chilton was only 16 years old (and I was only 12!). For an album produced in 1978, though, the recording and mix is not good. Too little separation, and primitive, unimaginative mixing. But musically, it is inventive. One can only imagine how much better this would have sounded if it were produced at Abbey Road, or The Hit Factory or even Muscle Shoals. Lyrics lack depth and originality. The suggestion is out there that “Thank You Friends” is a sarcastic condemnation of how badly Big Star was treated by the recording industry. Listened to from this perspective, it’s much better than if heard as a straightforward expression of gratitude. “Jesus Christ” is listed, but not playable, on Spotify. What’s up with that? The lyrics suggest a hymnic reflection on the singing of angels at the birth of Christ. It would be nice to hear it. One can get a taste of it in the twenty second sample on the iTunes Store. It’s not that impressive, chiefly because of the poor production. Too bad. “Femme Fatale” provides a good example of the band’s musical skills, and they are so-so. Alex Chilton’s simple lead vocal shows that he struggles with pitch at the softer end of his dynamic range, and the backing vocals (including his girlfriend Lesa Aldrege?) are even worse. Bass playing by Jim Dickinson is really good. His contribution to the band’s sound is probably a main reason for whatever success they had. “Holocaust” uses the systematic murder of six million Jews as a metaphor for the feelings of a woman whose mother just died a natural death. Yuck. This kind of pretentious appropriation is what gives much popular music a bad name. “Stroke It Noel” employs backing strings which are very poorly performed, and even more poorly recorded. I have keep reminding myself that this album was released in 1978. It would be a bad recording even if it had been released ten years earlier. Anyway, the lyrics on this song, the chorus of which is based on (uncredited) Bobby Freeman’s 1958 song “Do You Wanna Dance?”, are trite. The lines “Keeping an eye on the sky/Will they come, oh the bombs?” is anachronistic. By 1978, the fear of nuclear war was very much diminished from what we experienced in, say 1963, thanks to the U.S. effort in the Cold War, which is largely unappreciated today. (Full disclosure: I participated in the Cold War for the four years prior to this album’s release. But no hard feelings [smirk].) A pattern emerges here. Big Star takes hugely important issues and reduces them to triviality. This was ok in the 1950s and early 60s, but they seem to be lacking self awareness and compositional maturity in 1978. And for a band to call itself “Big Star” when it was anything but is, well, sad. Overall, I’m not sure why this is considered a cult classic, but cult defies justification anyway. Coulda died without this one. 1/5

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Mon Jul 12 2021
5

I've always loved this, and this love has only deepened over time.

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Wed Mar 24 2021
4

Man, Big Star is that traditional rock band that you HAVEN'T heard of. Once you click, however, you'll stick.

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Mon Apr 19 2021
3

Big Star were a fav among college friends. Mostly #1 record and radio city though. This one is a bit too sloppy and unfocused for me.

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Fri Jul 02 2021
5

Hindsight is a funny thing. Big Star's Third wasn't readily available to the public upon it's release, so it gained a big of a mysterious quality to fans, especially considering this record's defining quality was the disintegration of the band. What happened to make this the last Big Star record, and what made Alex Chilton abandon his band's signature sound only to wander the deserts of underground musical genres for the next 15 years. The production, while rough and borderline unfinished in places, have a real magical quality in the context of the band's history. They achieved pop perfection with songs like "September Gurls", but here we get a look behind the scenes, at the raw emotions Jody Stephens and Chilton were feeling. Their music had remained in the shadows, and that hurt and anguish is felt through an album that feels like it's being stitched together before your very eyes. I agree with Nick about this record having a huge impact on bands like Yo La Tengo, REM, Wilco, the Replacements, Teenage Fanclub, etc. etc. I'm not always in the mood for the depths and tension in this album, but it's a masterpiece by my account. Fav tracks: Kanga Roo, Thank You Friends, Blue Moon, You Can't Have Me, For You, Big Black Car

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Wed Mar 17 2021
4

Saved Prior: None Saved Off Rip: Stroke It Noel, Blue Moon, Till The End Of The Day Cutting Edge: None Overall Notes: Despite the fact that I didn't save a lot of songs, this was a cool listen. It puts the disintegration of a band and of a man front and center and you can hear that in the music. Is it for casual listening? Absolutely not. This is another album that I'll be returning to over the summer when I can really immerse myself in the world of the album. As it is now, I'll give it a 4 and keep it saved to my albums on Spotify.

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Thu Apr 22 2021
4

Big Black Car Femme Fatale Blue Moon Nature Boy Dream Lover

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Sat Jul 17 2021
4

This was great power pop - both catchy and twisted. Reading the history of the band alongside is fascinating. Is this the definitive version of this album? What even is a definitive version? The production sounds so fresh.

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Wed Apr 14 2021
3

Bibelmusik meint meine Frau. Inhaltlich nicht gecheckt aber irgendwie hat sie schon wieder recht

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Mon May 10 2021
2

Easy listening but easily forgettable too

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Wed Apr 21 2021
2

When this album started, I thought I was going to enjoy it. However, I found it a bit durgy and nothingy. I can't say it really.kept my attention

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Sat May 29 2021
2

When there are 1001 albums on the list, there are bound to be several albums that I won't be able to explain why they are on the list. This was a first listen to a band I've never heard of. This isn't the worst album I've heard so far, but it didn't even make it to "okay".

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Mon Jun 14 2021
2

Left little impression. Not for me

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Thu Mar 24 2022
1

Kann ich nix mit anfangen. Ich weiß nicht, was das soll.

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Sun Mar 06 2022
5

I have to say, I'm surprised seeing how few 5 star ratings there are for this album, but I guess Big Star doesn't resonate with everyone. I've been obsessed with Big Star since discovering them in 1992 when Rykodisk put out the Live album and the Jim Dickinson version of this one. I'm not sure what it is that made them so magical - some combination of the music and the story I suppose. Of the material that they released, which was unfortunately not a lot, this is my favorite. The songs are incredibly beautiful, strange, dark, and fragile. They feel as if they could fall apart at any moment, and in some cases they do. A reflection of Alex Chilton's mental state at the time I guess. "Get me out of here, I hate it here," from Nightime breaks my heart every time. Since I already know this album inside and out, I took the opportunity today to listen to Complete Third, the 2016 Omnivore release that includes all the demo versions, rough takes, and ultimately the masters. It's 3 hours long, so it's a lot, but it's a treat to hear how beautiful these songs already were at the demo stage with just acoustic guitar (or piano in a couple of cases) and Alex's lilting falsetto, and then how they were fleshed gradually with strings and other instruments. It's also a treat hearing some of the cover versions he chose to play around with, in particular the Velvet Underground's Femme Fatale and the Beach Boys Don't Worry Baby, which can only be found on the Complete release. His voice was a beautiful fit for those songs. It's a shame that Alex turned his back on the type of music he was making at this point in his life. I've never been a big fan of his solo work, but he was who he was, and that's partly what makes him great. A musical genius for sure, and this album is the best evidence of that. 5 stars.

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Fri Jun 10 2022
5

A lot like the Velvet Underground but different in interesting ways

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Thu Jun 16 2022
5

Most haunted (non) album of all times Prefs: TOUT Moins prefs: RIEN

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Wed Jun 22 2022
5

An album I've never listened to before now. And I've heard a lot of these songs before because they've been covered by bands I like (This Mortal Coil, Placebo, Jeff Buckley) or are covers themselves like Femme Fatale. A very interesting ramschackle of an album that seems to have had more success among musicians than it did commercially. And now listening to the entire album a 4th time it dawns on me why it is. My first listen was a decidedly 'meh'-experience. But it sure is growing, into an album I would listen to again and again, especially songs like Holocaust and Kanga Roo. It's dark, it's emotional it's terribly played. Absolutely amazing album. 4,5*

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Thu Jul 14 2022
5

Often heard about them when reading REM interviews in the music press way back when, but pre-streaming/internet I would never hear them. So I guess now I'm going to hear them. The full album is on A***on Music, which trump's Spotify's pitiful offering of missing tracks. And, well, it's beautiful. Of course I was going to like this as a lifelong fan of REM, particularly their early stuff, of which this is most reminiscent, or vice versa. You can absolutely hear the Replacements too, and stuff like the Green Pajamas. Yes the production is loose as fuck, but for me thats all part of the charm. There's great tunes here, that vary between up tempo freak outs (You can't Have Me) and quietly devastating (Holocaust). Kanga Roo feels like a precursor to shoegaze in places and is absolutely wonderful. Anyway I'm a sucker for the mythology around 'lost' records like this, and 'Smile', with tracks scattered around all over the place, where noone can agree on the running order. Then someone finally does, decades later. Love it.

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Mon Jul 18 2022
5

I really loved that production all around really enjoyable - 10/10

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Thu Oct 06 2022
5

This is a great album but it required a couple of replays from me to fully appreciate it. Definitely not something to just put in the background. The listing is a mess and varies in each issue, which results in sudden change of moods and styles. I was listening to Spotify version with a few bonus tracks. I can definitely see how this band and the album (which I have never listened to prior) was so influential to (mainly) American alternative bands. There's a wide spectrum of genres that can be spotted on the album, from powerpop (O, Dana), baroque pop (For You), glam rock (You Can't Have Me) and more folky tunes (Big Black Car). My favorites are the ballads which go from extremely sad and depressing (Holocaust, Big Black Car) to sweet love songs (Blue Moon, For You). I also enjoyed a lot the bonus track - Till The End of The Day which sounds like the Beatles meets powerpop. I also love the fragile voice of the singer, at times on the verge of completely breaking down. The only thing I did not care for was the Holocaust analogy, I think its a bit over the top and unneccessary, sounded a bit juvenile. Overall, the album is not only relevant thanks to its later influences, but also is a great piece of music on its own.

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Sun Nov 27 2022
5

Another album that defies classification. It contains elements of punk, new wave, symphonic pop, and experimental music. Lyrically, the album is dark and brooding which pairs well with the power pop underpinnings. Nothing about this album is straightforward. It is challenging but incredibly rewarding.

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Sun May 14 2023
5

El disco va mejorando según lo escuchas. Te atrapa. Femme fatale.

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Mon Jun 19 2023
5

A fractured, unsettling masterpiece that is decades ahead of its time. Third is not the easiest album to connect with, but there's something in these songs that's haunting and beautiful. It's all at once prickly and elegant, with an emotional honesty that's pretty breathtaking. Big Star's well documented distribution problems and bad timing may have kept their music from reaching an audience in their day. But for many of us who have been lucky enough to find them in the decades since, this is music that just burns itself into you. It has incredibly staying power, even 45 years on. If you know anything about Big Star, you know that Third is really Alex Chilton's album (with Jody Stephens, to a far lesser extent) and that the original band was done at this point. Some have described this as an album about a relationship crumbling, or the band crumbling, but it's also about Chilton's fragmenting sense of self and of what he thought he could do with music. It's notable that after Chilton put Third behind him, he went into the New York punk scene and evolved into a whole new sound. This album doesn't sound like Chilton's solo work, but it is his creative launching point. There are remnants of the muscular yet dreamy power pop that dominates Big Star's first 2 albums, but this work is less structured and more experimental than the others. It's a sound that contrasts deliberate atonality/raggedness with more polished, classically informed piano and string arrangements. Chilton is able to take the music into some very dark spaces that are equal parts ethereal and heart rending, with odd occasional moments of whimsy and brightness. If you enjoyed this, I strongly recommend taking the time to listen to the album Complete Third, not to mention the first 2 albums. Also, the documentary Nothing Can Hurt Me is a must see. Fave Songs (All songs, from most to least favorite, 1978 PVC US LP version): For You; Stroke It Noel; Blue Moon; Nightime; Kanga Roo; Holocaust; Big Black Car; Femme Fatale; O, Dana; Take Care; Nature Boy; Dream Lover; You Can't Have Me; Jesus Christ; Kizza Me; Thank You Friends; Downs.

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Fri Jul 07 2023
5

Thank you friends Wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you I'm so grateful for all the things you helped me do All the ladies and gentlemen Who made this all so probable Thank you, friends I rejoice to the skies Dear ones like you do the best I do As far as can see my eyes THIS is why I started listening to this list - I never heard of or heard this album before, and its excellent! 5/5

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Mon Jul 17 2023
5

An excellent album. Ahead of its time, but great songs in their own right as well.

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Fri Oct 13 2023
5

El disco va mejorando según lo escuchas. Te atrapa. Femme fatale.

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Wed Dec 20 2023
5

The influence for so many great bands in the 90s

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Fri Feb 02 2024
5

El disco va mejorando según lo escuchas. Te atrapa. Femme fatale.

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Fri Feb 09 2024
5

Missing link from Beatles to REM/Elliot Smith. Love this record.

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Wed Feb 14 2024
5

I loved #1 Record's 70s rock vibe a lot. This album is quite different in feel. The album opened in a not unexpected way with Kizza Me. But then it descends into darkness bottoming out with the haunting "Holocaust." This is a beautiful album whose eclecticism really appealed to me. The songs are stunning. Gorgeous string arrangements had me swooning, especially in songs like "For You." The eclecticism of this album is held together by the an underlying melancholy that makes this an album I expect will be something I return to often. Haunting and beautiful.

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Fri Feb 23 2024
5

El disco va mejorando según lo escuchas. Te atrapa. Femme fatale.

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Fri Mar 01 2024
5

I really like this. It's kind of funny the day before I listened to The Strokes' Is This It, and honestly this feels like it's of the same era. It holds up really well. I never would have guessed this was pre 80s music.

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Sat Mar 16 2024
5

#1 Record, Radio City and Third should all 3 be in the 1001.

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Wed Mar 27 2024
5

What a great record! Many missing tracks on Spotify which is a bummer. Great adventures in songwriting and melody here.

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Sun Apr 07 2024
5

Absolutely beautiful. Classic sound and very interesting songwriting. Touching and strong. The ballads here are spot on. Holocaust, Kanga Roo, Blue moon, take care. So great.

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Tue May 14 2024
5

Almost 800 albums in and yet I know nothing of Big Star, aside from random songs I've picked up in my life ("The Letter", sung by Alex Chilton pre-Big Star; "You and Your Sister" by Chris Bell after the band split). This album was recorded in 1974, released in 1978, yet the version of the book emphasizes the 1992 version with bonus tracks. Apple Music says it sounds nothing like their previous output. I'm beginning to think this is not an easy intro to this band... but of course, I just go where RNGesus commands. edit: I was mistaken, this is awesome; guess I’m a Big Star fan now 👍 HL: “Thank You Friends”, “Big Black Car”, “Jesus Christ”, the “Femme Fatale” cover, “For You”, “Take Care”, "Dream Lover" (bonus) May 13, 2024

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Wed Jun 12 2024
5

Interesting and worthwhile album that I had not heard before.

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Thu May 06 2021
4

Enjoyable but not really near classic status for me.

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Fri Jan 29 2021
4

As much as I love Big Star, I don't listen to this album enough. I enjoy so much about it. In some ways, I really like that this album sees the band getting a little weirder, but that creates some inconsistency and uneven moments...minor complaints for an album I still love.

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Mon May 03 2021
4

Extremely good. A solid album, and that cover of "Femme Fatale" is to die for!

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Thu May 13 2021
4

These guys are great. Wish I'd heard of them sooner.

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Thu Sep 16 2021
4

This is fantastic. I've listened to Matthew Sweet and the dB's, which likely are closely related descendants. Til the End of the Day is wonderful blistering and the rest of the album is both strong lyrically and musically. Really enjoy the somewhat haphazard energy and delivery.

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Sun Oct 10 2021
4

Most of this was enjoyable, I like the shoegazey before shoegazey was a thing-ness of Kangaroo but the happy-clappy Jesus song and the absolutely abysmal Velvet Underground cover? Not for me Clive.

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Fri Nov 05 2021
4

Can really see how it influenced bands like the Replacements. Or specifically the Replacements. A little more moody esoteric than my preference but still good to listen to and culturally relevant.

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Thu Dec 16 2021
4

I love to hear the origins of my favourite genres, and this is such a good example of early alt rock and power pop. Loved it, will likely listen again.

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Thu Jan 06 2022
4

In my mind, Big Star are a new wave band from the mid-1980s so it consistently blows my mind that their peak creative period was actually the '70s. This album, be it Sister Lovers or Third, doesn't sound like a product of the late 70s. It has a much crisper sound, no doubt signalling how ahead of its time this band was. And behold the pop stylings!

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Wed Jan 12 2022
4

Enjoyed this- too many songs and too long but great song writing. 4/5

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Mon Jan 17 2022
4

Pretty good heartbreak album

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Wed Apr 20 2022
4

Disco de rock que comienza movido y con mucha energía. Poco a poco se vuelve más oscuro, más melancólico. Las melodías más complejas se vuelven más simples y personales. No va de más a menos necesariamente, solo es un cambio marcado de humor. 3.5 estrellas que no debería subir o bajar. Sube a 4 porque no esperaba mucho de ellos.

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Wed Jun 08 2022
4

4/5. The tracks that hit, hit dumb hard, but the ones that dont, kinda weak

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Fri Sep 09 2022
4

I loved this. Its like OG emo. My favorite was "You Can't Have Me". The drums on that track were awesome.

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Wed Sep 21 2022
4

Interesting missing piece in pop music history. Recorded in 1972 yet has a post-punk ethos. Direct influence on This Mortal Coil and Magazine. More poppy stuff seemed to have influenced early 80s new wave like China Crisis and Haircut 100. I Was shocked to find out that Holocaust and Kangaroo were not This Mortal Coil originals. The album itself is groundbreaking but uneven. (3.8)

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Sun Oct 23 2022
4

Ragged and wan, as if everyone knew the end was nigh. Everything feels tossed off, but in a likable way. The iron-deficient “Femme Fatale” succeeds in seeming to approach a vanishing point. “Jesus Christ” is a bit more stable but with undercurrents of apathy and listlessness. The rockers are less effective, generally, not unlike Wilco (another of their esteemed progeny) in that sense. Did Big Star deserve better? It can be said, but they are perhaps flattered by their adherents.

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Thu Nov 10 2022
4

When I first heard the third Big Star album, I wasn't impressed. The first two albums were brilliant, both definitely essential listening, but the Third didn't have the quality or consistency of the first two. The amount of covers surprised me, and the status and direction of the band was in dire straits. Years have passed and with repeated listenings, the album has grown on me and I've had a deeper appreciation for the record. Alex Chilton is a genius, but he hasn't produced anything nearly as good as the first three of Big Star album ( though he's had his moments). A cult favorite or a misunderstood classic?

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Wed Nov 16 2022
4

Super bine, j’ai aime et il se pretait tres bien a la situation. 4

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Fri Dec 02 2022
4

This album was all over the place in a good way, really inventive for the time, shame they didn't have more success.

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Fri Dec 02 2022
4

I’d never heard of or listened to these before. Sounded so much before it’s time, plenty of nice surprises in this too including a decent cover of Femme Fatale. It’s only with the hindsight of listening to it you can hear how many bands they influenced (heard a few glimpses of Teenage Fanclub and Wilco throughout). Their sound is even more impressive given the landscape of music at the time.

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Sun Dec 04 2022
4

Well well what an interesting surprise - kind of Proto-indie what nice moody atmospheric songs in among a sprawling record. It’s a really good album despite it feels a little unfinished - which in itself makes it interesting as well. Some great tracks here.

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Thu Dec 22 2022
4

Ahead of their time. Good album

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Wed Dec 28 2022
4

Never heard this and liked it a lot. Will be returning for more.

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Fri Jan 20 2023
4

A lot of connective tissue here linking to 80's and 90's stuff. You have to assume Wilco was taking notes here (especially Holocaust), plus a bunch of other folks. Big Black Car is my favorite song.

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Fri Jan 20 2023
4

Big Star is the most Britishish American band I've heard in a long while. Coming right out of Radio City, I was left wanting a bit of energy: The disjointed sequencing certainly doesn't help Third cohere. But the stripping down is highly compelling.

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Mon Feb 06 2023
4

This is why I signed up for 1001 albums. I had hoped to discover new music to enjoy. Big Star confused me at first. I couldn't figure out why I had never heard of them since this came out during a time when I was all about album rock and assorted other related vices. There were one or two misses, but on the whole, they were great songs that were well played. I ended up pulling up their other two albums to listen to. Scale: 5 - My absolute favorites. 4 - Albums I like. 3 - It was ok to listen to but I wouldn't seek it out. 2 - Didn't like. 1 - Absolute shit.

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Thu Feb 23 2023
4

Their version of Femme Fatal is great. Other standout tracks: Holocaust, Thank You Friends, Big Black Car, and many many more! Really great album! 4/5

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Sun Mar 12 2023
4

Je compte arrêter de distribuer les quatre sur cinq à tout va après cet album, vous êtes prévenus.

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Sun Mar 12 2023
4

One of most refined cult bands in history. Only three records, each of them a masterpiece in its own terms. This one's the last, the most mature, melancholic, musical, complex of them three. Sometimes it is so beautiful it hurts

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Sun Mar 19 2023
4

Big Black Car. I love the dreamy vibe. That's a great drum solo on Nighttime. Really competent. Fairly eclectic, particularly for the time. I enjoyed it.

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Thu Mar 23 2023
4

Really nice pop-rock with an alt-country twist that goes down easy. Some heavy stuff here (in subject matter) but all really easy to listen to. I've been meaning to dig deeper into Big Star so I'm glad this popped up.

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Thu Mar 30 2023
4

Much darker than I anticipated. Solid songs, and their influence can easily be heard from this album, especially with The Replacements.

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Mon Apr 10 2023
4

Great ”lost” album. Would have loved to hear a whole album with the somber sound of tracks like ”Holocaust” but I can’t really complain about getting more power pop songs from Big Star

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Tue Apr 25 2023
4

I adore Big Star, but this is my least favourite of their 3 recorded albums. A very arty, dark, and jagged bunch of songs that reflect some inner turmoil in the mind and life of Alex Chilton. I wish more bands were like Big Star.

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Fri Apr 28 2023
4

Big Star's original run was pretty flawless, but this is the least captivating of those three albums for me. Still, the least good of three pretty great things is, believe it or not, also pretty great.

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Fri Apr 28 2023
4

Great listen. Standouts: Femme Fatal, Holocaust, Jesus Christ, Thank You Friend, Kanga Roo, and more! 4/5

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Sun Jun 04 2023
4

Really interesting record with a lot of beautiful songs, especially the cover of the masterpiece "Femme Fatale" by The Velvet Underground and Nico.

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Tue Jun 06 2023
4

Big Star is known as "the most influential band you've never heard of." I'm pretty sure I have listened to this album before. I will say that it sounds more like a 90's album from someone like Blink 182 or Teenage Fanclub than from the 1970's.

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Thu Jun 15 2023
4

Tuneful and ragged, sweet and bitter, they were REM before REM were REM, and the influence on indie rock could not be clearer or more pronounced. This reads as hollow as it is haunting.

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Tue Jun 20 2023
4

I first came across 'Holocaust' and "Kangaroo' as (exquisitely tasteful) covers on the first This Mortal Coil album, which I listened to a lot over the years. Big Star were one of those bands you heard about, but their records were just impossible to come by, and, in fairness, this one wasn't even really an album. It has been released on a variety of labels, under different titles, with different track listings, and, while their is a now a complete set of recordings available, there is no definitive album. It really surprised me to read that these songs had been extensively demoed before recording, because these recordings are chaotic and damaged. The songs are haunting and often sadly beautiful, but the recordings fucked up (pardon my french). And I can understand why record companies didn't want to touch it. According the Pitchfork: "Fry shopped the album to labels in 1975 in the hopes of recouping some of the money poured into the project. Nobody bit. Lenny Waronker at Warner asked, 'I don’t have to listen to that again, do I?' Over at Atlantic, Jerry Wexler claimed 'This record makes me feel very uncomfortable.'" It was more than three years until it got its initial release on an indie label, well after the band had split up (and it is even debatable whether this was ever a Big Star album). There are aspects of the album that speak to care and ambition (the strings arrangements, for example), but much of the album seems deliberately bad sounding. This adds to the discomforting feeling that the album imbues, and even Alex Chilton's voice (So strong and compelling in the Box Tops) is fragile here. The songs are intense, and I can see why this band and this album have become cult favourites, highly influential on many alternative artists in the 80s and 90s. I want to mention This Mortal Coil, Jeff Buckley, REM, and Sparklehorse, off the top of my head. Stephen Deusner in Pitchfork writes "For many listeners-- including, for a few years, me-- Big Star were more legend than band. They were the beloved patron saints for struggling musicians: These albums were inspired and inspiring but never found a wide audience, yet the fact that they eventually became so revered offered encouragement to young songwriters with their own dream of big stardom and No. 1 records. Even if you never found an audience in your prime, you could always hope for later cult success. And to some extent, of course, the myth overtook the music" I have listened to this through a number of times today. It is uncomfortable and haunting, but there is a depth there. The myth of the album is almost overwhelming, but these are songs that I am learning to love. It's a weird and difficult album though. It's a challenge to give this a star rating; it's got some really beautiful aspects, but it is also so broken. I'm really struggling to know what to think. 3.5 stars, rounded up.

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Tue Jun 20 2023
4

Amazingly, this album still sounds timeless and fresh despite being from 1978. Some of these are quite beautiful midnight guitar ballads of love or regret. How is it some albums can sound terrible, forced, dated, awkwardly produced by amateurs, and this one still sounds to current, universal and well made ? So finally another wonderful “discovery” album... so much to it, too. Nice to have this for phase two of my use of the 1001 list. I am using it to not just listen and rate, btu also understand why on album is considered important or influential... The 1001 book isn't much help (uses too much impenetrable ‘insider’ shorthand ) so I resort to internet articles and they say enough when I ask basic questions like “why is big star considered influential?" Yes, evidently this band is held responsible for what we recognise as 80's and 90's "alternative pop" sound, or our beloved, lamenting university radio (or Triple J in Australia) at the time. This - they say - is the most influential band no one has heard of. My online search yielded this (rolling stone) comment: "It's a record of gorgeous, disjointed heartbreak ballads." and this (from “insidehook”) that “Third wouldn’t have sounded out of place on ’90s college rock radio at all." I agree. It still sounds current... yes, hauntingly good stuff and sounds fully 1990's and very playable at midnight. their languid stuff is very good indeed if you're in the mood for it. Standout for me were: Dream Lover , Nature Boy, Night time- sound so perfectly ahead of their time. and do remind me of a softer version of REM . I did note that Chris Bell (vocals, guitar) sounds, to my ear, very, VERY Australian on Motel Blues (on another album).

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