Big Talk’s second record follows the successful path of the first

Annie Zaleski

Four stars

Big Talk Straight in No Kissin'

When The Killers’ Ronnie Vannucci unveiled solo side project Big Talk in 2011, it arrived with some high-profile names attached. The band’s self-titled debut was produced by Strokes/My Morning Jacket collaborator Joe Chiccarelli and featured mixing from the legendary Alan Moulder. In contrast, Big Talk’s self-released, PledgeMusic-supported sophomore effort, Straight in No Kissin’, was more casual: Vannucci started writing it while on tour in 2013, gathered the band to work on it last year while The Killers were on hiatus, and recorded it in a basement studio he built for the occasion.

The resulting music sounds nearly the same, at least stylistically: Straight in No Kissin’ is largely a no-frills, irony-free homage to ’70s and ’80s AOR, from blippy synth-pop à la the Cars (“What Happened to Delisa”) and power-pop with fellow Las Vegan Taylor Milne’s squealing guitar heroics (“The Void”) to Scary Monsters-era David Bowie (keyboard-swirled standout “Hold That Line”). Better still is the catchy, new wave-flavored “Cocktail Party,” which features a surging chorus stacked with harmonies and Vannucci’s rough-hewn lead vocals.

Yet the album’s low-key origins, along with the presence of new member Brooks Wackerman (who’s also Bad Religion’s drummer), do have a marked influence. The record feels looser and more energetic, and is more inclined to experimentation—as evidenced by punky power-pop song “Another Satellite,” and the equally brisk album-closer “Neon’s Not Enough Light,” whose falsetto-laden, glammy chorus is an obvious Queen homage. The end result is that Straight in No Kissin’ is yet another enjoyable rock ’n’ roll record with no pretense. If The Killers ever decide to call it a day, Vannucci should be just fine on his own.

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