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The Killers’ Ronnie Vannucci speaks up

Debut side project Big Talk might surprise Killers fans with its fondness for classic rock

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Bang the drum: Vannucci (left) with Big Talkmate Taylor Milne
Photo: Jeff Gros
Annie Zaleski

Critics tend to blame frontman Brandon Flowers for the Bruce Springsteen-isms in The Killers’ tunes, but perhaps drummer Ronnie Vannucci is the band’s bigger Boss worshipper and classic-rock fan. Proof? The debut album from Ronnie Vannucci’s debut side project, a self-titled release under the name Big Talk that feels like a tribute to the radio-friendly AOR sound of the ’70s and ’80s.

After a retro-futuristic synth intro, “Katzenjammer” turns into a dead ringer for Yes’ 1987 hit “Love Will Find a Way,” down to its exaggerated drums, stacked harmonies and arena-sized guitars. The compact-pop gems “Getaways” and “Replica,” meanwhile, are fine imitations of moody synth-rockers The Cars, down to their taut keyboards, precise arrangements and spot-on Ric Ocasek vocal imitations. Elsewhere, Vannucci dabbles in Hunky Dory-era Bowie-folk (“The Next One Living”), ’80s power-pop (“Living in Pictures”), blues-influenced acoustic strums (“No Whiskey”) and yes, even Springsteen’s slick solo work (“Girl at Sunrise”).

If Big Talk has a downside, it’s a lack of originality. While the songwriting is solid and the production/mixing team of Joe Chicarelli and Alan Moulder makes the album sound good there’s not much sonic groundbreaking going on. Perhaps what’s more impressive is how skillfully Vannucci separates himself from The Killers. Although Big Talk’s basic foundation resembles the latter’s trademark signifiers—specifically, the two bands share a propensity for dramatic sentiments and anthemic choruses, and Vannucci’s vocal timbre is often very similar to that of Brandon Flowers—the album is defiantly different. This is rock music with designs on a Foreigner opening slot, not a Coachella headlining gig. In the end, Killers fans might be somewhat taken aback by Big Talk. Classic rock fanatics, however, will find much to love about this album.

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