Everything & Nothing At Once, Part 1, the new Big Fang EP, is a fight-scene montage, a late-night bull session, and the break-up song you played over and over while wearing flannel, rolling up as a grunge/power-pop EP that sounds like a great mid-lining set at Café Nine and reads like a metaphor for birth to death.
Written by Big Fang’s Tony Mascolo and recorded at Sam Carlson’s San Serif Studio, this EP rolls up its metaphors in instrumentation that are intense subtext. Everything about the lyrics says what’s going on here focuses on loss and alienation and failing to connect, yet listening feels like a celebration of the struggle of being human.
The obvious reference points are Nirvana and Pearl Jam, though both the dark vigor of the production and the themes also put me in mind of L7’s “Pretend That We’re Dead.”
You can check it out on Spotify (hey, listen while you read the track-by-track) – and if you like it, buy on Bandcamp, where proceeds benefit a charity of your choice. Also check out Karen Ponzio’s interview with Tony about the making of the EP.
The opening track asks for attention with a shift from distant riffs, like a band finishing its soundcheck to a burst of warm guitars and drums. End the side convo you started during after the opener before you miss—
“And all we take when we’re gone / is what we’ve had all along” starts the vocal. I love that and because it implies there was an ongoing conversation that we’ve already missed part of. (This is where I start jumping up and down, squeaking “it’s Burke’s life-as-unending-conversation!”, thereby justifying my university years.) Reading the song as a metaphor for birth works—we’re plunged into noise and existence, already on course for death, trying to figure out what it all means and not sure it isn’t a massive joke.
The instrumentation for “Waiting” makes it the theme song for anxiety. Lyrically, it treats waiting as an ambiguous in-between state — does “waiting for the sun to fall” mean waiting for a call in the evening or figuring it’ll be the end of the world before that happens? — where even feeling alive is dubious.
All this happens against the backdrop of drums like a nervous heartbeat and electric guitar that cycles between tentative participation, tightly etched riffs like a frantic heart monitor, and a fairly mellow grunge groove.
Listening to the friendly power-pop opening morph into and out of an action-adventure soundtrack full of danger signals (credit Jesse Newman’s violin and Laura Klein’s cello) has twisted my brain permanently. Note-by-note obsession is in the future, as it’s a splendid musical metaphor for the “twisting” misinterpretation in the lyrics. (Then it goes further, but you need that as a surprise.)
This favorite from the Human Distance hits different when its raging, soaring quest for connection across a widening divide is set in the context of this EP’s birth-to-death arc. “Meet you at the end if you’re not ahead of me” points to some hope for destiny or relief in a journey where human distance feels unconquerable.
Having heard this live a couple times (oh, how I miss hearing this live), I’m also freshly struck about how what’s musically the crowd-on-their-feet anthem seems to be about alienation. Are we celebrating our fundamental aloneness or our hope of connecting?
“Fading Phrase” starts, aptly, with the sense that you ought to know this riff. It’s not precisely any riff on your grunge albums from [college / your older sibling / your parents’ college years ], but it feels like it ought to be? You know this song, except you don’t.
“I don’t ever change / change is what remains,” the opening lyric, carries the insight that fits equally well on a T-shirt or as the basis of a philosophy. It exists to be quoted; it exists to be life-changing; it exists to be misused. It is itself a fading phrase, twistable into what you need it to be. I’m reading it as being like the thing about how our cells refresh every so-many years, so me today is not me twenty years ago, and yet me is a thing. Change is what remains.
Like “Emergency,” this song is meant to have crowds on their feet: the grunge/power pop energy is fundamentally comforting. The final love, love, love, love, love has a really neat ambiguity in the context of the song’s themes of changing apart and falling out of reach. Is it the answer, or just another fading phrase?
Same Old Song
The driving percussion and guitar feels like a power-pop theme song for a 1990s show about a quirky group of friends, until everything about the song refuses to offer a neatly tied-up feel-good statement. Instead “it’s nothing” – and the last vibrations of the guitar strings relax into silence. Show’s over.