The boys of New Jersey’s Big Troubles take a second dip into the indie pop pool with Romantic Comedy, a record that doesn’t offer any big surprises but manages to match the enjoyability of their debut. The charming, noisy production that gave the first record, Worry, a Loveless-on-a-budget feel has disappeared but has been replaced with an unobstructed view of the band’s noteworthy songwriting ability.
The songs on Romantic Comedy generally waver between two sounds: Some have a sensitive, retro-pop feel most comparable to indie rock’s current spotlight-gobblers, Girls, while others take a harder-edged guitar rock route. The album’s lead single Sad Girls falls into the former category, with a lackadaisical and airy vocal melody playing out across a bright instrumental backing. Time Bomb is a great sample of the latter style, opening with a high-gain guitar rush reminiscent of late ’80s Dinosaur Jr. Big Troubles hit their groove delivering pop-rock punches in quick doses: Misery is a catchy, jangly track that clocks in at just under two-and-a-half minutes, while the swirling Minor Keys starts spreading itself thin across four-and-a-half.
Most notably on this new record, Big Troubles has cleaned up their previously lo-fi sound with the help of veteran producer Mitch Easter, best known for his work on R.E.M.’s first two records. The change in production style isn’t a conclusive improvement. The griminess of Worry‘s songs was a big part of what made them so appealing. In its place, we gain a clearer glimpse of dual singer/songwriters Alex Craig and Ian Drennan’s knack for pleasant hooks and intelligent pop lyrics, which was sometimes buried in the debut’s thick coating of noise. It’s a trade-off that breaks even in the end.
Essential Tracks: Sad Girls, Misery, and Time Bomb