No Depression: Big Blue World Review

The output of any creative is one part instinct and another part self-identity. Bee Brogan and Neil Fitzsimon of Fitzsimon and Brogan describe their styles as “pure pop for now people,” and I can’t say that I disagree with their description. There’s an almost translucency in their music that borrows heavily from the bright indulgences of Cocteau Twins and the raw, brutal irreverence of The Vaselines in a way that doesn’t sound like a second or third generation descendent. Its thick layers of guitar and near-synthetic percussion create an atmospheric tidal wave that’s impossible to escape once you get caught in its alluring undercurrent.

Ironically, there’s a certain cohesiveness in making a record that’s as shapeless as Fitzsimon and Brogan’s Big Blue World. Each song can stand on its own musically as an exclusive peek into the duo’s artistry, but this collection of songs presented to us in a single place as it is here is reflective of the diversity in the band’s influences and target audience. This isn’t music that’s made for one group over another, and it rarely adheres to scene politics or the parameters of standard FM pop. This is courageously harsh tonality compressed into a polished, almost bleached packaging that is equally abstract as it is infectiously memorable. It didn’t take long for me to add a couple of Big Blue World’s tracks to my summer playlist for repeat listens.

In the jarring rock anthem “God Given Right,” Bee Brogan invokes the spirit of late 70’s garage punk in all of its furious glory and adds her own spin of rebelliousness to the mix to make for an infectiously high energy, raucous ride. Somewhere between 1999 and 2005, punk rock seemed to become a much more commercial entity than it was ever designed to become, and the whole of rock n’ roll music has suffered tremendously because of it. The bucolic ferocity of the traditional rock band become completely toned down and softened to appeal to a much wider range of listeners, and the distinctiveness of styles became watered down beyond the point of recognition. At least as this decade is wrapping up, artists like Fitzsimon and Brogan are taking strides to bring boundless passion back into the fold for rock, even in most postmodern tracks like “Blue Velvet” or the joyously rhythmic “Sea of Love,” which features a galloping, folky drum beat that I can promise you will be seared into your brain for the duration of the year.

As a music critic, I don’t always have the chance to review albums that I genuinely plan on keeping on my shelf for the long term. Big Blue World is one of the exceptional pieces though, and with the advent of online music streaming making it increasingly more accessible for fans around the world to reach artists from every corner of the globe, this could easily propel their ascension into the international pop music consciousness. They’ve got enough gas in the tank to make a really big statement with this record, and it just might be their moment to breakthrough to the big leagues.