Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Chuck Berry – Big Boys

In memoriam…


Tim de Reuse: Chuck Berry doing Chuck Berry for people who love Chuck Berry. A silly, sentimental victory lap engineered specifically to prod the ol’ memory banks (except for the tame 21st-century mix, which is a little jarring). It faithfully serves the function of a solid cover band at a themed party: 100% skillfully executed reference.

Will Rivitz: “Big Boys” is anachronistic. I don’t think there’s any other way to describe a song that rocks ‘n’ rolls with a fervor not seen in this form from anybody born in the past 50 years. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it speaks to the evanescent nature of pop that even something as cleanly produced and adrenaline-soaked as this sounds almost as far removed from the charts as a Beethoven symphony. And as much as Chuck Berry was a master of his craft, music changes, and where there was once space for rollicking guitars at the school dance, they’ve been replaced with new equipment. To justify making the same music again, then, a musician needs to be able to make what he’s doing relevant. I can’t say that’s true here.

Micha Cavaseno: People are going to tell you that this is a triumphant final hurrah of a man’s great legacy, and they’re just wrong. “Big Boys” is a great simulation of Chuck’s great hits, and like any time someone decides to pay for the old rockers to get one last go, it’s endearing to see them break out the old tricks. But you listen to Chuck’s voice waver in and out of sense, you listen to the professionalism of those snare hits on the drum, and you realize this isn’t a Chuck Berry song — it’s a Chuck Berry museum exhibit. There’s a big difference between sounding like what fun was like and actually being fun.

Thomas Inskeep: With the exception of the production, slightly more refined than his ’50s Chess singles, this sounds exactly like a Chuck Berry record should and likely like what you’d expect. And that’s just fine, because Chuck Berry doesn’t belong in ill-fitting stylistic jackets. He belongs duck-walking across the stage, playing guitar, and singing about the simplest pleasures imaginable, accompanied by boogie-woogie piano and a four-on-the-floor beat. That’s precisely what “Big Boys” serves up. Nathaniel Rateliff shows up for the third verse, wishing he was George Thorogood, but don’t let that distract you too much. 

Alfred Soto: Tom Morello and the star trade rangy, ragged riffs that distinguish a decent song from the competition but barely. Props to the “yes, yes, yes” hook when the title might’ve have provided a facile one. Is the drummer using empty Kleenex boxes? Anyway, I doubt I’ll spin this again but an honorable farewell.

Claire Biddles: Solid but ultimately inessential, except for diehard Chuck Berry completists, I guess. You don’t need me or anyone else on this site to tell you about Berry’s influence or importance, and it would be churlish to insult a song made by someone who clearly retained so much enthusiasm for his craft into his old age, but there’s nothing much to say about a song that follows a formula as precisely as this does.

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