Big Star returned to the studio in 1973 without Chris Bell, who had felt threatened by Chilton’s dominance of the group. While #1 Record displayed a lot of potential, Radio City shows Big Star subverting their influences into compelling and unique rock music. There are still moments of beauty and lovely harmonies, but they are augmented by a harder and messier sound.
Even the slower songs such as ‘Daisy Glaze’ build to a crescendo, while ‘Mod Lang’ and ‘O My Soul’ rock the whole way through. Chilton uses some first-rate vintage guitar tones, while Jody Stephens’ drumming is dynamic and idiosyncratic. Bassist Andy Hummel co-wrote nearly half of the songs, and sings lead on the outstanding ‘Way Out West’, ‘September Gurls’ and ‘Back of a Car’ should have been hit singles, while the nasty ‘Life is White’, an answer to ‘My Life is Right’ from #1 Record, is a wonderfully melodic rocker.
Radio City is slightly messy and off kilter, which gives it an extra edge; the last two songs gain impact through their presentations as rough demos. If you have any interest in rock music you need to hunt this down; make sure that you grab the twofer with #1 Record as well.