Album Review Big Red Machine - How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?

Big Red Machine - How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?

There’s a terrific bounty to be enjoyed in the centre of the Vernon-Dessner Venn diagram.

Rating:

Aaron Dessner must have fashioned quite the list of goals to complete in 2020. Not only did he write and produce two wildly successful LPs with Taylor Swift, but he’s also carved out time to resurrect the ‘supergroup’ Big Red Machine he formed with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon for their self-titled 2018 debut LP. With an open door policy, Aaron and Justin bring an impressive cast under one roof on new offering ‘How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?’. On the haunting ‘Hutch’, Justin is shrouded by a choir composed of Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Hannigan and Shara Nova (of My Brightest Diamond). Elsewhere, the piano-led ‘Phoenix’ is warmed by Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold’s bright vocals which hosts a mesmerising trade off with Justin as it soars into an arena-ready chorus. The huge cast of characters are pulled together by the LP’s themes which dance in a nostalgic light; drawing on childhood, before the loss of innocence. The LP has some shared DNA with Aaron’s most recent outings; choppy, processed beats are interspersed with flashes of piano and guitar. The instrumental for ‘Hoping Then’ could have fit snugly on ‘folklore’ or ‘evermore’, and Tay makes an appearance herself on ‘Birch’ and ‘Renegade’. Some moments where the ghosts of that partnership linger too closely feel a little middle-of-the-road but fortunately these are in a minority. It’s in fact some of the album’s stripped back arrangements that make for the most impactful moments - acoustic ballad ‘The Ghost Of Cincinnati’ which finds Aaron stepping up to the mic is a showstopper dripping with fantastic imagery and storytelling; “I haunt the North Side / Stop the traffic lights / Cycle up Price Hill / And stare up at the Pepsi sign”. As is always the case with albums of this nature that brim top-to-toe with guests, it’s sometimes hard to locate the thread that runs through it all. Nevertheless, there’s a terrific bounty to be enjoyed in the centre of the Vernon-Dessner Venn diagram.

As featured in the August 2021 issue of DIY, out now. Scroll down to get your copy.

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