“The world’s a big and crazy lover, so let’s just dance here where we are,” Alejandro Escovedo sings on Big Station, co-written once again with Chuck Prophet. It’s one of the more jarring lines on Escovedo’s most recent album, coming a bit out of nowhere on “Never Stood A Chance”, a soft, mid-tempo torch song that recalls Escovedo’s moving, yearning ballad “Sister Lost Soul” from 2008’s Real Animal. But if the line feels forced, the metaphor clunky, it’s nevertheless a telling statement on Big Station, which finds Escovedo dancing away the end of the world time and time again.
Big Station has a more ambitious sound, in production, arrangement, and style, than either of Escovedo’s recent efforts with producer Tony Visconti. There are horns and piano alongside the usual rock ‘n’ roll guitars, and this time around, the 61-year-old rocker (frequently pegged, much to his frustration, as an alt-country elder-statesmen) is more concerned than ever with getting his crowd on their feet. It’s a record catered to the live stage, where many of these songs will feel more at home than they do here. On Big Station, rhythm takes precedence over riff, and though there are still several poignant, down-tempo singer-songwriter moments on the album, Escovedo has taken a newfound interest in dance music, not so much as a genre but as a guiding principle. On Big Station, Escovedo uses dance as denial, celebration, release, and avoidance.
Faced with hard times “at the bottom of the world,” Big Station just wants to enjoy itself. It wants to “dance on broken glass,” ignore the tears, and drink through the night on the eerie album closer “Too Many Tears”. It “can’t keep up with the party people,” but it wants to try, so it takes a seat to “watch the party die” on the sad, rousing “Party People.” It wants to tell a story of Mexican politics, war, and violence, so it sets the story to an irresistible groove on “Sally Was A Cop”.
The album feels like it’s sometimes grasping for its own fun, like on the opening track “Man Of The World”, which will make for too easy a segue on stage into Escovedo’s showstopper “Castanets.” But that desperateness is part of the point. Big Station acts like the night is ending quicker than anyone expected, and it just wants to ask you for one more dance before the lights come up.
Essential Tracks: “Sally Was A Cop”, “Party People”, and “Too Many Tears”