It’s ironic that Cheap Trick’s cover of Big Star’s “In The Street” became the theme song for That '70s Show, since Alex Chilton’s outfit was far from a typical ’70s band.
In a time when proggy excess (Yes, ELP), weighty concepts (Pink Floyd) and blooze rawk (Led Zep) ruled the airwaves, Big Star’s concise guitar pop sounded hopelessly square. Like appreciating Citizen Kane’s advances in cinematic storytelling, it requires mental time travel to understand what this Memphis outfit accomplished in its short, commercially unsuccessful career. Fortunately, Concord has unearthed its 1992 reissue of Big Star’s first two albums, tacking on alternate mixes of two songs (one of which features—yes—more cowbell). To listeners raised on similar strains of guitar pop, from Teenage Fanclub to The Long Winters, the sound won’t be revolutionary but the crystalline mixes, pristine guitars timeless songs like “September Gurls” and “When My Baby’s Beside Me” still evoke boundless admiration. Those who want a more comprehensive take, though, would do better to wait for Rhino’s exhaustive box set, due out this fall