[sic] Magazine

Big Ups – Before A Million Universes

Are you a glass-half-empty or a glass-half-full kinda person? NYC punks Big Ups’ new LP title is taken from the work of Walt Whitman and it’s a line open to interpretation: “let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.” Do we really have to accept our lot in this life because across the multiverse we’re all being treated equally? A more optimistic reading might be that the future is not yet written and any one of a million doors still lie open to us. It’s difficult to tell Big Ups’ intention. Certainly the drudgery of dead-end jobs continues to take its toll on the band and Before A Million Universes, the four-piece’s second LP and follow-up to 2014’s spectacular Eighteen Hours Of Static, is a self-aware downer for most of its duration as a result. “Capitalized”, for example, is a dangerous rejection of company spirit, a red flag against preventing violence in the workplace built on a loose and fast chug from the Steve Albini handbook and a spoken-word that gesticulates wildly.

More tracks than the concise debut, longer tracks too, two of which are over five minutes in length, Before A Million Universes is in many ways your typical sophomore LP. It dials back some of Eighteen Hours Of Static more abrasive motifs as well, but that’s not the bummer it might first seem. You might have to work harder for smash-and-grab passages of thrash and guitar torture, so too flares of throat-shredding emo-grunge, but in relegating these broken-glass gargles to the album’s extremes it lets Big Ups focus on their quiet-loud-quiet forte. Before A Million Universes’s running order thus meanders through spidery acoustic-electro post-hardcore, subtly seething in Slint-like countryside, visceral blowouts dotting the landscape.

Joe Galarraga, Amar Lal, Carlos Salguero Jr. and Brendan Finn are not some gutter punks getting wasted and making a racket and their Before A Million Universes often plays as an intelligent and serious record. Their songs often start and finish in completely different places, cymbal simmer and barely-there vocals developing sudden-onset laryngitis, muscular rumblers trailing off into whispery bouts of societal disaffection. Ramshackle punk-rocker “National Parks”, a track Galarraga wrote in thanks to his mother, is one of a few moments of consistency, trading blows like Ought getting familiar with the Les Savy Fav catalogue, a frayed guitar line pulling tighter the more attention you give it.

Big Ups have a knack of running percussion and guitar at different angles, tempos and rhythms and then suddenly coalescing them into a neat hook or crunch, unravelling the whole just as quickly as it formed. When it suits them they’re a nuclear force, a band smashing its component parts together with the energy of a hardrock collider. With Before A Million Universes the post-smash analysis is just as interesting though.

Best track: “National Parks”

~Before A Million Universes is released March 4th 2016 via Tough Love.~