Between 1987 and 1992, Boston-based indie rock band Big Dipper earned a lot of critical praise, if not stratospheric album sales. In particular, their 1987 Heavens was rated by some critics as among the best of the era.
One reason the band earned such responses is that their first three albums were on Homestead Records. On one hand, Homestead was a label well known for signing quality groups, but on the other, Homestead was limited in distribution and marketing. In 1990, Big Dipper tried to take the next step by moving up to Epic Records. But Big Dipper's fourth full album, Slam, was such a disappointment that Epic never put their huge machine behind the band. Two years later, Big Dipper called it a day.
But Heavens had left such an impression on its fans that in 2008, Merge Records not only reissued all the original Homestead records, but a full album's worth of unreleased material all together on a three-disc retrospective, Supercluster: The Big Dipper Anthology. This, in turn, inspired three members of the original band to come together to record a full album of 12 new songs. Crashes on the Platinum Planet is the happy result.
Then and now, Big Dipper includes guitarist/vocalist Bill Goffrier, drummer/vocalist Jeff Oliphant, and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist/producer Gary Waleik. Joining these three songwriters is Tom Brewitt, who replaces Steve Michener on bass. Now with families and day gigs, the group set about working on new material with a leisurely pace in Waleik's home studio. Working on only one or two songs at a time, the reinvigorated Big Dipper spent four years to produce Crashes on the Platinum Planet, and the attention to detail, polish, and depth shows from start to finish.
Still, nailing down a handy label for what the current Big Dipper is doing is a slippery prospect. Because of the guitar interplay between Goffrier and Waleik, it's easy to see why they've been branded "jangle pop." But in an interview with this reviewer, Waleik rejected the notion. For him, "jangle" bands do little else but jangle, and pop bands do pop, but Big Dipper doesn't fit either of these molds. In his view, Big Dipper offers a wider vista of musical and lyrical styles. He has a point.