When it comes to writing reviews for this website, I’ve developed a method that I believe works well and gives each project a pretty fair shot. I listen to the CD twice all the way through before writing a single word. Then I write down the track listing and as I play through for a third time I begin to make notes. This has become a self-imposed rule that I’ve stuck to on all but a handful of the nearly 300 reviews I’ve thrown up here. Sometimes I jot down quotes and sometimes just the premise for bits that grabbed my attention. I write down what stood out as really good and I write down what stood out as really bad. If a track goes by that isn’t particularly noteworthy, I simply delete that line and move on to the next. By the end of the final playback, I have a skeleton of a review from which to work.
After reviewing - and really enjoying - Matt Braunger’s “Shovel Fighter” back in July of 2012, I was looking forward to his follow-up project, “Big Dumb Animal.” After my first time around, though, I was a bit disappointed. Nothing jumped out at me and I was hard-pressed to recall and specific bits. I remembered that he yelled a lot but…that was about it.
I wanted to like this CD and was hopeful that on my second listen things would click. There were a few occasions of “Oh yeah, this one was good” but for the most part I found myself apathetic and I couldn’t put my finger on why. Braunger was certainly putting his all into it and he sure was yelling a lot but it all felt to be much ado about nothing.
As I approached my third listen, I told myself that this would be the time everything fell into place. I made a list of the 18 track titles and ended up taking notes on less than half of them (only seven, to be exact) and finally had to be honest and admit to myself that I just didn’t connect with this one. I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it and perhaps therein lies the problem: “Big Dumb Animal” didn’t make me feel anything.
Braunger’s bits on blood donor questionnaires and the guy on the bus who didn’t know when to not hit on a woman were entertaining but there seemed to be more misses than hits this time around. He takes the long, long, long, looong way around to get to a “Please drink responsibly” punchline and I found his description of a waiter spilling a tray of food so unbelievably slapstick-y, it was like it happened in an episode of “Saved By the Bell.”
What really stands out to me, though, is the fact that 11 tracks went by and garnered no reaction at all. That’s a big percentage and a fact I can't ignore. As a lifelong fan of the Chicago Cubs, I know a bad batting average when I see one. But, as a lifelong fan of the Chicago Cubs, I don’t give up on my team just because they had a bad game. “Big Dumb Animal” wasn’t what I hoped it would be, but I’m still optimistic. We’ll get ‘em next time, guys.