REVIEWS OF BIG PLANS FOR EVERYBODY (1986)
May 22, 1986
By Anthony DeCurtis
Big Plans For Everybody is essentially a solo outing; Mitch Easter's ever-shifting combo seems to have gone off
to activate elsewhere. It's also the best
work Easter has done—more personal, straightforward and rocking than any of his previous efforts.
On Afoot, Let's Active's pop-crazy debut EP, all the hooks caught, but Easter's urge to engage our attention was nearly obsessive. The songs at times seemed to exist primarily as vehicles for ear-grabbing production tricks. Then on the denser, more ambitious followup LP, Cypress, texture overwhelmed the tunes. The album was aurally fascinating, but Easter seemed to be brooding, unable to articulate what was on his mind. Trying to penetrate the obscure lyrics of songs like "Waters Part" or "Crows on a Phone Line" was an aspect of Cypress's uneasy pleasure, but frustration often set in before revelation.
On Big Plans For Everybody, however,
Easter checks his much-vaunted quirkiness and shoots from the heart. Not that the record's impact is in any way blunt. Far from it—the directness of Easter's approach gives him access to a much greater subtlety and emotional insight.
The preludes and postscripts of coming apart are the focus of this album. ''We cannot let it go in little ways," Easter sings on the opening track, aware that deep rifts begin with small things. The way in which masculine desire blends imperceptibly with control gets captured neatly in "Fell," in which the heartfelt assertion "I am the one for you" is followed by the unthinking condescension of "I know you better than you do"; in this appeal for reconciliation, the tone of the singer's voice reveals a likely reason for the breakup.
Easter's newfound directness benefits his playing and singing as well as his songwriting. His guitar is up front throughout Big Plans, and "In Little Ways," "Last Chance Town," "Won't Go Wrong" and the murky "Still Dark Out" showcase the immense skill and versatility of his playing. While his singing can only be judged fairly within the aesthetic of the Alex Chilton school of Southern earnestness and irony, Easter's vocals find new conviction and vulnerability in this albums songs. Despite the departure of his band, Big Plans proves that Mitch Easter is not merely active but at the height of his power.
April 28, 1986
By Kevin Berger
The North Carolina Guitar Pops Orchestra, composed, conducted, and played by Mitch Easter. With his third LP, Easter has advanced Buddy Holly's art of multitracking guitars and voices in a pop vein to a state of apothesis. A rare trebly piano sets the pace in "In Little Ways," quickly followed by a swaying Albert Lee-like two-note guitar solo, fleshed out by waves of minor Stratocaster chords and
Easter's timeless teenage caroling. The sound is
incantatory, not lulling. Think Beatles, Lovin' Spoonful, 1910 Fruitgum Company. Only "Reflecting Pool" is awash in the McGuinn guitars and rolling rhythms with which Easter, as producer of R.E.M., has often been identified. Easter's real signature is stamped in the bouncing rhythms powered by dense
guitars in "Talking To Myself," featuring a galloping acoustic guitar solo, "Fell," and "Whispered News," delivering the strongest syncopated drum track that would make the song danceable were Easter to restrain himself from channeling the uptempo verses and chorus into a "Strawberry Fields Forever" bridge. And speaking of sitars and reversed guitar tape loops, hear "Writing the Book of Last Pages," a meandering tempo drenched in elastic vocal harmonies—an homage to Revolver. Another homage? How about every kid dying to play a Flying-V guitar like Ace Frehley of Kiss. Easter shows how with a comically gruff solo in "Last Chance Town." Actually, the LP is a Rosetta Stone of pop. As for music appreciation pure and simple, well, there is nary a memorable lyric, nor does Easter's voice cut much deeper than Tommy James's. And really, all of
Easter's extraordinary guitar arrangements make him
little more than the Todd Rundgren of the eighties.
However, lovers of formalist pop (like me) can find
nothing but true bliss here.
April 25, 1986
By Mark Iskowitz
Good news—Mitch Easter sings and plays with renewed gusto and conviction on his third record. The hook filled material is well crafted, exuding a peculiar toughness and almost always spotlighting Easter's guitar prowess. Especially hard edged is "Talking To Myself," clearly a standout for its imposing brashness and thundering Keith Moon-ish drumming. "Whispering News" employs similar rhythmic energy but adds an airy synth backdrop and numerous overdubbed guitars. Easter's lyrics engage in palpable romantic wordplay, with occasional jaunts into the obscure, as in "Writing the Book of Last Pages." You mustn't miss this Beatlesque mystery trip, driven by jangly guitars, sitar, and soaring harmonies. Give spins to "Fell" and "Badger," two vivid guitar songs, before declaring this album's genuine brilliance. They will most certainly make Easter's Big Plans loom even larger.
back to timeline