Fricke's Picks: A Better Bang

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The first American full-length album by the Norwegian trio BigBang, From Acid to Zen (Oglio/Grand Sport), is a mixed bag of then and now: seven tracks pulled from the group's most recent Norwegian releases, 2005's Poetic Terrorism and 2007's Too Much Yang, both Number One albums there, plus recut versions of two older numbers and two new songs. It's a shotgun buffet, like those early U.S. LPs by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones that combined album tracks and singles from unrelated sessions, and it succeeds the same way: like an instant greatest-hits record. Singer-guitarist-songwriter Øystein Greni has the right history in his genes — his dad sang in a Norwegian band that opened for Led Zeppelin in 1968 — and he grounds songs like "Early December," "Hurricane Boy" and the brilliantly titled "From Acid to Zen" in the eternal power-chord charge and fish-hook riffs of the Stones and the Who. But Greni also has a knack for wringing fresh excitement from the familiar: the country-angel harmonies and ice-Byrds guitar in the new version of "Wild Bird," the improbable dream of Badfinger and Hüsker Dü in "The One." For Greni, who co-produced the new tracks with Phil Nicolo, From Acid to Zen is a big step in a bigger gamble. After more than a decade of Pearl Jam-like success in Norway, Greni recently moved to Los Angeles, determined to break America the hard way. He, original drummer Olaf Olsen and new bassist Øyvind Storli Hoel now play clubs here with a set list that still rules Scandinavian festivals and is basically this album in your face: proven hits with forward thrust.