Big Stir Singles: The Tenth Wave

You know, time really does fly.

It’s been two years since the start of There Once Was A Note, and as I’ve said on many occasions, my first offramp from the Corporate Rock Highway was Big Stir Singles: The Third Wave.

And in what seems like the blink of an eye, we have arrived upon Big Stir Singles: The Tenth Wave. There have been a number of changes in our world between those two collections…including, but not limited to, a worldwide pandemic that changed the music industry as we know it. But…perhaps following the sage wisdom of Stephen Stills, “Rejoice, rejoice, we have no choice, but to carry on”…we’re still here, Big Stir Records is still here, and while it’s been far from business as usual, the label’s paisley-clad conquering of the music world has faithfully continued.

What’s most striking about the Big Stir Singles collections is that the cast of characters may change…no single artist has appeared on all ten volumes, some are making their Big Stir debut here…but it the Big Stir je ne sais quois, the recognizable but undefinable core vibe of the label, what Christina Bulbenko referred to as music that “scratches the itch,” remain constant.

The album opens with mylittlebrother‘s “Howl,” and a keyboard figure that echoes Fleetwood Mac’s “Jewel Eyed Judy.” before blossoming into a big, harmony-filled, bittersweet 60s feel. Then it’s on to Nick Frater’s “California Waits,” living up to the “power pop” credo and certainly channeling the energy of the Sunshine State.

Then we get to the part of the album where Dorothy informs us that we’re no longer in Kansas.

Rather than re-tell the story here, I’ll direct you to the Armoires page on the Big Stir Website. The abbreviated version is that the band spent a large portion 2020 issuing singles under pseudonyms in order to step away from their signature sound and explore new territory and specific areas of influence and inspiration. It began with “October Surprise” and the cover of John Cale’s “Paris 1919,” and continued throughout the year. The single from “D.F.E.” is also represented here, “I Say We Take Off And Nuke The Site From Orbit.”

These singles…and the resulting Armoires album that “unmasked” all of those bogus “bands”…were important for a few reasons. Human nature, during times of great stress, hardships, and fear of the unknown, causes some to retreat to the safe and familiar (as in “comfort zones”), or to withdraw altogether. But the Armoires, in a move that is so key to the pre-pandemic success of Big Stir, “zigged” when life “zagged” and decided to hold a hootenanny-slash-weenie roast on the rubble of the music business. Gigs dried up, income was scarce, there was ample justification for artists to say “to hell with it,” but The Armoires didn’t succumb to any of it, they partied like it was on sale for $19.99 and made it all an adventure.

There are a few additional covers worth noting…The Incurables seize ownership of “Muskrat Love” from America and / or The Captain and Tennille with their customary brand of fun-loving Detroit anarchy, “NPFO Strategem” (a collaboration between Plasticsoul’s Steven Wilson and Spygenius) lights up Ringo’s “Back Off Boogaloo” as a parable for life during the term of our now-former 45th president, and Popdudes return for “O-o-h Child” and The Guess Who’s “Share The Land.” It’s all good, clean, wholesome twangy and jangly family entertainment, and then NPFO Strategem surfaces again with “Nazi Punks Fuck Off (Lounge Hallucination Version).” In short, keep yer head in the clouds and yer feet on the ground, ya know? This isn’t escapist entertainment, it’s dancing in the acid rain of our current society.

And that, in a nutshell, is why Big Stir has survived and thrived…they’ve been there when it’s been a walk in the park, and they’ve been there when it’s a pain in the ass. They’re constant, they may take a beating like the rest of us, but they lift their head and crack a smile and keep putting one foot in front of the other on this little journey we call “life.” This is another record you don’t want, you need…so waste no time in heading to Big Stir for your copy.