Turn That Noise Down - Big Country

So many well-known albums turn 30 this year and Steve Taylor-Bryant and Susan Omand travel back to 1988 to revisit some of the sounds of their youth that made parents shout "Turn that noise down!" This week, Steve rediscovers Peace in our Time...

I loved Big Country growing up. That whole mini era I personally had discovering Stuart Adamson’s voice and Mike Peters and his band The Alarm were truly lovely days. I was only 8 or 9 and my school friends were still into the pop stuff, and listening to the likes of The Alarm and Big Country was like I was part of a special secret, like I’d been bestowed with a great power. Of course, you then grow up and realise these bands were hugely popular and not just artists that made things just for you. I bloody hate growing up and losing all that mysteriousness, it truly sucks. The thing is though as you get older and learn more about the world and how it works, so your understanding of these bands becomes more rounded and your initial childlike fantasy becomes something more akin to a political movement. When Big Country came up on the Turn That Noise Down list there was no way I wasn’t snatching the opportunity to get back into that mindset of change from childish wonder to fully formed adult.

Peace in our Time, the fourth release from the Scottish band was then and is now a marvellous listen. Not every track would be a huge success then or now but there is so much to enjoy on this record. Adamson’s vocals, instantly recognisable and somewhat comforting, Mark Brzezicki and his really tight but pounding drums, a mandolin and sitar for goodness sake, a bloody mandolin that really work within a song, great lyrics, some fantastic bass licks from Tony Butler, great 80’s sounding keyboard sounds, and most ever experience of an E-bow. I played in a band in the mid-90’s and our lead guitarist was an E-bow nut and I love the unique sounds and depth that particular piece of sorcery can add to a band.

There maybe isn’t any huge anthem in standouts, no In a Big Country, but tunes like Thousand Mile Star, From Here to Eternity offer something close and perfectly complement the softer moments like Everything I Need which is just a stunningly beautiful well crafted piece of artistry. Titular track Peace in our Time is a very distinctive Big Country sound that would grace any of their releases, Time For Leaving has that reggae/punk style that The Clash were so good at, and River of Hope is one of my all time favourite Big Country tunes, probably because it’s very drum led, but I’m honestly not sure why. In This Place is another slower but evocative track and Adamson’s voice has rarely been better, and I Could Be Happy Here closes out a marvellous original album well. The version you buy now has many bonus tracks but this a 1988 retrospective so I’ll not mention more than you should buy the 1996 remastered version.

Listening back to Peace in our Time now is a different experience to the one you may have. I’d forgotten a lot of the gems this album contains, my Big Country experience in the last couple of decades has been limited to a Greatest Hits CD and seeing the band with Mike Peters fronting them, after, sadly, Stuart Adamson passed away. My experience was an instant transfer back to a childhood discovery, it was like listening to a new band again. Whether this album truly holds up after thirty years will have to be for you to decide as I’m not sure I can be impartial anymore due to the wonderful memories albums like this release in me.

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