The Bigger Lovers – How I Learned to Stop Worrying

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

An anonymous foursome from Philadelphia who overcame some initial bad luck to produce three excellent albums of increasingly sophisticated power pop, the Bigger Lovers were one of the great overlooked American bands of the 2000s. I don’t know much about these guys – couldn’t pick any of them out of a line-up (drummer Pat Berkery went on to play with the War on Drugs and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah) – but man, they made some really good music.

What I Think of This Album

Yes, this is the kind of band that designates a Side 1/Side 2 on the back cover, and they are steeped in rock classicism enough to merit that move. No mere pretentiousness, it is a tacit admission that their sound owes a massive debt to the Byrds, Beach Boys, and even early Who. That said, the Bigger Lovers put their own stamp on things, both musical and lyrical. Bassist Scott Jefferson and guitarist Brett Tobias split most of the songwriting as well as the lead vocals.

“Catch & Release” references hiding porn under the bed, but the buzzing mosquito tone of the lead guitar, the enthusiastic drum bashing, and the great harmonies are what stand out from this excellent opening track. “I’m Here” has a sing-song quality, buoyed by handclaps, tambourine, and an organ that won’t quit. The band takes a dreamier approach on the tremolo-flecked, reverb-laced “Change Your Mind.” Chunky riffing heralds “Forever is Not So Long” with a rising/falling melody and great lead guitar; Jefferson’s whiny lead vocals are immensely appealing, adding a mix of teenage insouciance to the proceedings.

Not the only country meandering here, “Steady on Threes” relies on slide guitar and pedal steel to add some color, as well as treated vocals. The languorous, creamy “Casual Friday” is more about the sound than the song, though the solo is cool; the spoken word part at the end, presaging a plane crash, is profoundly unsettling (and likely inspired by the Everly Brothers’ “Ebony Eyes”).

Album highlight (and a much needed lift after the depressing “Casual Friday”), “Threadbare” is exuberant and bright, replete with harmonies, some excellent distorted guitar, and Berkery flailing away behind the kit. “I’m burning underneath your magnifying glass” is exactly right; this is a perfect Side 2 opener. “America Undercover” is a purposely lo-fi, country number, with reverbed guitar and pedal steel; it also appears to obliquely reference Monica Lewinski, which I think is a first (and only) in all my albums. Honestly, this is sort of negligible.

Some fine piano playing, together with the reliable drumming of Berkery and a nice bass part from Jefferson, as well as more Beach Boys harmonies, all come together on the superb “Summer (of Our First Hello),” co-written with guitarist Ed Hogarty (who gets a weird lead part). “A Year Ago” is another excellent track, with pounding drums and a standout bass part to supplement the harmonies that weave around the tuneful melody.

The final country song, and final song overall, is “Out of Sight,” which has a distinct Everly Brothers feel with Jefferson doing his own lead and harmony vocals; the organ is a nice touch, but the tune goes on for probably one minute too long.

For reasons sadly unknown, the band thanks Velvet Crush drummer Ric Menck and Bobsled Record impresario Bob Salerno in the liner notes. As if you needed another reason to like this band. Also, while this album was recorded in 1999, record label woes prevented its release until 2001.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Threadbare” is just so much fun.

Release Date

2001

The Cover Art

The text colors are nice, but the photo is boring.

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