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Growth is the name of the game for Big Business on this record. First, they've grown, as so many two pieces refuse to do, by recognizing the limitations of their set up and adding a valuable third member. Secondly, they've grown as songwriters, and are all about experimentation on this release. Finally, this album is itself a "grower" - nowhere nearly as immediately accessible to metalheads as their last record "Here Come the Waterworks." This is interesting because this is most definitely Big Business' most "pop" record to date. This time, it's the songs that are the focus, not the riffs, whether sludgy or speedy.
Those expecting Melvins or Sabbath worship will be dissapointed by this one. This time BB are mining territory previously claimed by Queens of the Stone Age and Torche - the land where thunderous riffing and sugar sweet melodies are equal partners. The most apt (if bizarre) description I can write for this record is that it sounds like heavy metal showtunes. There is no one out there writing this kind of music, and that's worth applauding all on its own. "The Ayes Have It" is a soaring doomy waltz that would seem perfect for musical theatre. "Theme From Big Business II" (their best song to date) is equal parts Queen, Kyuss, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Grandiose, weird heavy music without a hint of cheesiness - "Mind the Drift" is not a rock opera, but it is most certainly operatic rock of the highest caliber. Jared Warren has matured into an amazing vocalist.
There are a few drawbacks to this record, hence the 4/5 stars (but that's to be expected for an artist trying something so new and interesting, it would be strange if it were perfect). First, the mix is strange, bordering on distracting in some instances. Again, it seems they haven't worked out all the kinks with new guitarist Toshi Kasai. More growing pains. Sometimes he's playing something very light and sparse while the bass is doing all the heavy lifting - but in some of these instances the tinny guitar lines dominate the mix and the roaring bass riffing is relegated to second fiddle deep in the back. Since the bass riffs were one of the key ingredients in making Big Business a successful and unique two piece, they should be kept at the forefront of the band's sound. While Toshi Kasai has some amazing moments on the six string on this record, occasionally he sounds too subdued, like he's afraid to go all out. I think as the band moves forward and plays together more as a three piece, they'll correct this on future releases. The most powerful moment on the record is the ending crescendo of "The Drift" where the guitar and bass lock in together on the tremendously simple, tremendously badass main riff. BB would do well to include more of these kind of moments on their future songs. My only other complaint is that it seems Big Business took steps forward, but one step back in the lyrical department. I thought the lyrics on "Here Come the Waterworks" were some of the best I'd ever heard on a heavy record, and I cannot say the words on "Mind the Drift" are quite in that league. I love the Melvins to death, but Buzz's lyrics are clearly nonsense. Too often on this record BB seem to drift into Melvins-esque meaninglessness and vagueness with the lyrics (not surprising since 2/3 of BB is in the Melvins). That having been said, the lyrics to several of the songs are really outstanding, especially the aforementioned "The Drift." The lyrics to "I Got It Online" are pretty lame. The song is fun, but it screams "B-Side" and I think they could have put something better in its place, especially on such a short record.
All that having been said, this is an outstanding collection of songs. Most bands would be lucky to write tunes like "Cats, Mice," "The Drift," "The Ayes Have It" or "Theme from Big Business II" over the course of their entire career, much less have them on one album. Coady Willis' drumming is again tremendous (and most importantly, really inventive), the vocals and bass riffs from Jared Warren are impeccable, and the aforementioned addition of guitarist Toshi Kasai is a welcome addition. It was totally necessary to add a third member in order for this band to grow into the live and in-studio behemoth I know it can become.
All my nitpicking is only because I feel this band is one of the best in the world and I hope to see them rise of the level of Melvins or QOTSA in underground hard rock - because they definitely have that talent level. "Mind the Drift" is an imperfect but daringly innovative rock album - one that any fan of heavy music should have in his or her collection for 2009.