The Lowdown: The latest album from L.A. sludge duo Big Business is a reaffirmation of this project’s core principles. Following the release of their 2005 debut, Head for the Hills, drummer Coady Willis and bassist/vocalist Jared Warren tinkered with the formula. They fleshed out the lineup with various guitar players, plumping up the band to a quartet at one point. Willis and Warren also logged a few years as members of the Melvins, giving albums like Nude With Boots and The Bride Screamed Murder a molten core. Now, for their sixth album, The Beast You Are, Big Business have reduced everything down to the bare essentials: thick, veiny bass riffs and Warren’s mighty bellow underscored by Willis’ full throttle assault. As rattling and disorienting as being accidentally knocked in the head by an arm wearing a studded bracelet.
The Good: Despite their interest in adding elements of psychedelia into their tightly wound coil, Big Business work best when they pick a point on the horizon and plow towards it with unrelenting force. And with their return to a lean lineup, that only helps them get there faster. The majority of the songs on The Beast You Are are straight shots with silver-tipped arrows. Even as Willis plays his way around a groove a la Ginger Baker and his onetime Melvins bandmate Dale Crover, and Warren bolsters his low end with synth groans, tracks like “Abdominal Snowman” and “El Pollo” stay on target, leaving ample wreckage in their wake.
The Bad: As direct as this album can be, the music on it does have moments of meandering. The running time is gently padded out with instrumental interludes and a few songs feel like they were drawn out unnecessarily, like the extended, synth-heavy bridge of “People Behave”. And near the end of the album, Big Business toss in “Under Everest”, a strangely mellow song driven by a jingle bell rhythm and intertwined keyboard parts. A decent enough exploration of their musical range, but one that stops the album dead in its tracks before the vicious “Let Them Grind” gets a chance to reset the needle.
The Verdict: No matter who is in the lineup or what other activity Willis and Warren are up to, Big Business deliver exactly what you ordered time and time again. And that consistency is precisely what makes The Beast You Are such a thrill to listen to and carries with it a small pocket of disappointment. While it’s great to hear the two men knuckle down and write some bruising, shattering tunes and inject them with color and touches of eccentricity, their attempts to evolve seem timid and a bit imprudent. There’s been a streak of weirdness within this group for years, but they have yet to fully tap into it.
Essential Tracks: “Let Them Grind”, “Time+Heat”, “Bright Grey”