http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/baf788ee90ed559a701b7ddfaeecf5b92817965c.jpg Life In A Tin Can

Bee Gees

Life In A Tin Can

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 0 0
May 10, 1973

As purveyors of pure pop pleasantries over the past six years, the Bee Gees have few rivals extant and their popularity has continued virtually unabated. But after an initial barrage of arresting singles and a generally solid album track record (up to their fine double set Odessa), their music has declined. With elaborate orchestral arrangements and a preponderance of big ballads, Bee Gees' material was always just a step away from the dreary MOR slush mainstream. They usually managed to avoid such a classification by varying combinations of striking melody lines, rich harmonies, intriguing lyrics and Robin Gibb's unusual, quavery lead vocals. Recently, however, the melodies and harmonies have become drab and sparse, the arrangements correspondingly lusher (the lyrics became tame long ago). And Robin's throbbing histrionics now seem at odds with the group's currently trivial and simplistic repertoire.

This disturbing trend began around the time of Cucumber Castle, and has run through Trafalgar and the recent To Whom It May Concern (with time out for a one-shot resurgence on the grievously underrated Two Years On), and reached its peak with their single "Run To Me," a pallid imitation of America's "I Need You," which was a pallid Bee Gees imitation in the first place. With their new album, Life in a Tin Can, conditions are slightly improved, but there's really nothing to get excited about. Of the eight tracks, two are typical slushy ballads with scant redeeming melodic value. Another, "Living In Chicago," is a fairly pretty but overlong number in the same vein, with plodding acoustic guitar dominating instead of the usual orchestra. Three other cuts fall into a melodramatic, pseudo-Western style which the Bee Gees have been toying with for some time. And, while the countryish tunes are pleasant enough, the pose is rather ludicrous.

Two tracks do stand out — "Method to My Madness," by it's unadorned organ-dominated arrangement and slightly above-average melody and "Saw a New Morning," currently an unsuccessful single, for its dramatic production, relative complexity and strong harmonies. The only track herein that could be associated with past Bee Gees' triumphs like "New York Mining Disaster 1941" or "Lonely Days," "Saw a New Morning" is less impressive but at least maintains a connection to earlier triumphs. As for Life in a Tin Can, it is vaguely pleasant and certainly innocuous enough to fit right in with the prevalent Seventies soft-rock ambience. But the best Bee Gees' song out today is David Bowie's "Space Oddity" (note manifold vocal and stylistic similarities), and the group itself can be considered artistically moribund for the present.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “American Girl”

    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

    It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

    More Song Stories entries »