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Game Theory

The Big Shot Chronicles: Review

Jet Lag, St. Louis, MO, September 1986

By Jordan Oakes

It took me a long time to sink my teeth into Game Theory's latest musical plum, but when I got to the core I was properly exhilarated. Unlike last year's instant Game Theory classic, Real Nighttime, this newest effort has time-release-type hooks--you've got to spin the thing 'til you're dizzy to finally dig the gold. At first the songs seemed almost tossed-off, rehashed, void of focus; but subsequent plays revealed an ornery masterpiece, a melody-crammed statement on love, lust, depression and the unreal world in general.

The band line-up is a bit different now, but that makes no difference. What we're looking at here is a Scott Miller record; he wrote the songs and sings them in his self-admitted "miserable whine." And, contrary to popular belief, this is not just his fourth record. Miller has recorded in an earlier band called ALRN (Alternative Learning) which for all practical purposes was the same thing as Game Theory, a vehicle for Miller's twisted pop ideas. Also, there was a brilliant first album by Game Theory called Blaze Of Glory that contained what I still believe to be Miller's best song to date, "Bad Year at UCLA." The record was packaged in a well-decorated trash bag and must be hunted down.

Which brings us to The Big Shot Chronicles. Song number 1 is reflective of Miller's fast, hyper-pop side and the chorus of "Here It Is Tomorrow" will always be appropriate to our lives in the fast lane. The second tune, "Where You Going Northern," is delicate Chiltonesque heart-searching.

"I've Tried Subtlety" is feisty but a lot more subtle than you might predict. "Make Any Vows" is fast and catchy but angry, too. "Regenisraen" is spellbinding dream-pop, up there with anything Chilton ever wrote. Great songs like that make me exaggerate.

"Book of Millionaires" is downright depressing but melodically upright. It drones with heavy cynicism. "Like a Girl Jesus" is more classic imagery, the kind Scott Miller pulls out of a high hat. I can't rave enough about this record. And don't mind the Chilton comparisons; Scott has definitely been saddled with too many of them. What made Big Star such a classic pop contradiction was the way it pit mock-macho brawn against near-female emotional vulnerability. Game Theory ignore the former and lace the latter with infectious, mood-altering keyboards for an outstanding effect. If you don't like this record, they're clearly ahead of your time.

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