An Invitation To Tragedy


Fearless Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Paul Hanson


Bigwig's first CD, Unmerry Melodies, is one of my favorite CDs. I listened to it twice a day (which really isn't that hard since it's only 20 some minutes long) for nearly a year. Then they put out Stay Asleep and I was even more pumped on this band. The band progressed from touring relentlessly and brought a more mature perspective to their craft. Gone were the blatant "Fuck you/ You crashed my car" in "Old Lady" and the direct commentaries about the societal groups around them such as college frat boys in "Drunken Knight" and the whole vegetarian/non-vegetarian group in "Carnivore." They progressed to topics about selling out in "Sellout," touring in "13" and the familiar love/relationships in songs like "Still." For the Fearless Records compilation Punk Does Metal, they covered Slayer's "War Ensemble" including a jazzy interlude in the middle of the song. When I heard "War Ensemble," I returned to spinning Melodies and Asleep on a regular basis.

So when An Invitation To Tragedy finally arrived in my mailbox, I unwrapped the shrink wrap cautiously. I admit I was worried. The cover art looks like the kind of cover a band puts on their CDs when they are weirding out. I mean, there's a couple of mermaids holding some sort of banner on the back cover and there are elephants and rhinos on the front. Weird. Not punk.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Until you put the CD in and hear the frantic lead guitar work of Tom. The other members of Bigwig have come and gone, but Tom is Bigwig. On Unmerry Melodies, they had Josh, Dan, John and Tom. On Stay Asleep, they had Josh, Matt, John, and Tom (replacing drummer Dan with drummer Matt). Now, on Invitation, they replace Josh and John with Jeremy and Max. If you head out to Bigwig's official site (no, not now), maybe the band members have changed again.

The point is that if you have followed the band's path of rotating line-ups, you may be asking well, which is the best lineup, like Roth or Hagar, Burton or Newsted (and the correct answers would be Roth and Burton) of this band. Tom is given credit for lead guitar on this release and he smokes. His leads ooze of skill on the six string. His lyrics have taken the band to another level, especially on the third track "Sore Losers" with these lyrics: "I never played/ my mom can beat up your mom/ My dad can beat up your dad/ My God can beat up your God too." These lyrics roll off Tom's lips like nectar of the Gods. Relationships are at the forefront of Tom's mind as he sings "Your [sic] such a waste of time/ but I'll be just fine/ I saw a picture of you today/ I can't believe how much you've changed" in "Hope." This guitar riff, while good, is a little too close to 38 Special or Journey for my taste. Sounds like something I've heard before.

Besides that one complaint, and it is oh-so-minor, I think Invitation is a stellar release. It seems that the band took the touring they did for Asleep and captured the tightness of a live band within the studio. It's an inspiring release, in a way, because the individual instruments all have their brief spots in which the musicians shine. If longtime fans are looking for a glimpse to the Melodies era, they can take comfort in "Appreciation" which is a short 1:13 track with the group vocals you'd find all over Melodies.

In all, though, Invitation is by a band that is progressing to become a powerhouse punk band. They have refined their skills. Tom as a lead guitarist works, especially on solos during songs like "Sink or Swim" and "Who Am I To Day" and "Italic." Drummer Matt pounds his way through the 32:56 on this CD with power. His drums sound full and well-produced. Bassist Max and rhythm guitarist Jeremy fill their slots with skill. By the time the guitar riff ends on "Italic" with a single power chord, you're left salivating for more. This will do me until they come to my town (ahem, that'd be Gabe's Oasis in Iowa City or 3rd Street Live in Cedar Rapids.

Rating: A

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© 2001 Paul Hanson and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Fearless Records, and is used for informational purposes only.