Bangin' 'n' Knockin'
Blue Rose Records, 1999
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/18/2000
When I first heard Big In Iowa, I thought they were the embodiment of Southern-fried rock a la The Eagles and Little Feat. After going through their second release Twisted a number of times, I couldn't wait until I could get to their next disc.
Unfortunately, Bangin' 'N' Knockin' features Bob Burns and crew taking a fork in the road, moving away from the rock aspect of the music and more towards a Counting Crows influence. It's not totally unpleasant, but it doesn't feel like the natural next step for the group.
Oh, there are still some moments where it sounds like Big In Iowa are firing on all cylinders. "Neil's On The Radio" is a song that takes several listens to really appreciate, but it proves to be worth the effort in the end. Likewise, "Hide Away" and "Not Gone Yet" seem to capture that magic. Of special interest to me is the group's cover of Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl," a track they plow through with incredible skill. It's a simple enough song, but in the wrong hands, any track can be butchered. Fortunately, Burns and crew treat this one with more than enough tender loving care.
If only all the moments on Bangin' 'N' Knockin' were like this. The bulk of the album is almost alternative country, and doesn't have the same energy that their previous release did. Tracks like "Don't Be Mad," "Miss You" and "Two Lane Highway" just fall flat. Even "Anna Lee," a track I held out a lot of hope for, left me feeling a bit empty at the end.
It's not that Big In Iowa should not explore their country roots, nor should they avoid trying different musical combinations. But if Twisted did anything for the group, it pointed them down a path where success was within reasonable reach. Maybe it's that Big In Iowa thought that following this would be too easy and not challenging enough, I don't know. But this combination just doesn't work as well for them - and they'd be better off leaving it by the wayside.
Twisted was the kind of disc that quickly grew on the listener, and the more you listened to it, the more the disc's hidden magic came through. I've been through Bangin' 'N' Knockin' several times now, and that spark just isn't there anymore. Maybe that's the biggest disappointment of them all - because I know this band is capable of so much better.