Mr. Big. The name conjures memories of the easy and sleazy hard rock era of the late 80's early 90's and rightly so as evidenced by Mr. Big's most successful album, "Lean Into It." While the pairing of Sheehan and Gilbert might create an orgy among prog-frogs, this album is about as progressive as Loverboy. Judging by the laid back style of the album though, "prog" was probably not the focus which Mr. Big was heading at. In fact, I would be surprised if someone told me that Mr. Big wasn't a brainchild of Atlantic Records Executives. While my particular interest in Sheehan has always lain with his Niacin project and, to be fair, my interest in Gilbert has never quite taken off, Sheehan, Gilbert, vocalist Eric Martin and pigskinner Pat Torpey have created a quintessential hard rock relic.
The album opens with "Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy." Though not as immediately arousing as Writhing Afterbirth's "Forced Incestual Intercourse," Mr. Big has kicked off their album in a way which, twenty minutes after hearing the song, will be awkwardly nauseating. The whole sleaziness of the song is repugnantly glorious for such an accessible band. And the whole song is post-marked "The Electric Drill Song." I guess that's a popular position in incest circles? What we find in this song which is carried through most of the album though is a lighthearted tossing around of double entendre and the typical word-smithing (or destruction... whichever you prefer) associated with the glam and hard rock scene which Mr. Big drew influence from in their formative years.
The distinction which makes Mr. Big something more timeless than the glam bands and more interesting the hard rock bands is the sheer variety of styles amassed on "Lean Into It." In this respect, they could be compared to a band which they toured with during their peak - Aerosmith. The maturity evident in both bands, even though the lyrics on some of Mr. Big's songs are giant blocks of ultra sharp cheddar, is shown through the strong songwriting. Every song on the album has strong hooks, strong distinction from other songs on the album, and flawless musicianship (like Gilbert and Sheehan would accept anything less?). Eric Martin's vocals make me yawn though, as technically excellent as he is. He just sounds too clean-cut for my tastes.
I find the main style apparent on the release is a hybrid of two main styles - hard rock songs like "Never Say Never" (barely Hard Rock) and "Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy," and cuts like "Alive And Kickin, Voodoo Kiss," and "A Little Too Loose," which have strong southern rock and blues influences. On these tracks, Sheehan is particularly excellent. I find his unique buzzy and overdriven-though-cleaner-than-Lemmy bass tone suitable to create the underlying roughness which the songs require to obtain that meaty southern flavor. Gilbert is all over the frets on almost every song when he has the opportunity. What I like about Gilbert that I loathe in other notable solo-guitarists is that his seemingly laid-back personality is evident through his humble style of playing. I could never imagine Yngwie finding himself perfectly happy playing chords that don't involve seventeen fingers and sixteen toes. While Torpey is a name I'm not familiar with, his drumming on the album is rather standard but he has a great tone and lays down constantly evolving drum lines which never stagnate.
Lean Into It is a pretty chill album, nothing worth yapping on forever about, and most likely something your non-metal girlfriend won't mind listening to and with a culminating track like "To Be With You," she might even think you have a soft-side which could win you brownie points... until you tell the bitch to make you a sandwich. Mr. Big is basically a pretty standard rock band which almost anyone can enjoy, regardless of their preferences. Sure, I could throw on Sodom grab the nearest metal pipe and haphazardly bash in just about every piece of furniture I see... Wait... where's my "Tapping The Vein" CD?