I have an odd fascination with great bands that turf out the second they go to a major label. I agree that this isn’t nearly as bad as it was recieved at the time. -Ian!
General opinion has held Slam to be a poor sellout album for a major label, exchanging the blend of charm and power from the earlier records for a more overblown, overproduced ‘commercial alternative’ release from the pre-Nevermind days. That the recording is more cleanly produced than earlier efforts is undeniable, and Goffrier sounds a little more controlled in his singing this time around. But a total washout? Not completely — if Slam is the least distinct of Big Dipper’s records, it still sounds a heck of a lot better than many other releases, thanks to the group’s ear for a hook, despite whatever window-dressing might be employed, and slightly skewed lyrics. Lead song “Love Barge” ranks with the band’s best, with the lovely metaphors contained in the lyrics matching the gently hopeful, feedback-laden music. Quirky, but thankfully not annoyingly so, snippets crop up on song after song, showing that the group’s sense of humor had survived the major label jump. “Another Life,” with its ruminations on the afterworld, contains the killer line “Hey Godfather, turn around/There is soul beyond James Brown.” The addition of a horn section on “Bony Knees of Nothing” and similar extra brass and instruments on some other songs doesn’t overwhelm the band at the core of it all; if anything, the keyboards and extra sounds on “Baby Blue” adds to the gentle appeal of the track. As for the final track, a cover of Mott the Hoople’s “All the Way From Memphis” — if it was recorded at label behest for a back-up single as needed, the members sure sound like they’re putting more into it than simply for use as a time-killer. Certainly more than a few songs slide by the wayside without much show, but Slam isn’t the disaster of repute.
-Ned Raggett, allmusic.com
Big Dipper-SLAM (1990)