By all rights, the album that came to be known as Big Star's Third should have been a disaster. It was written and recorded in 1975, when Alex Chilton's brilliant but tragically overlooked band had all but broken up. As Chilton pondered his next move, he was drinking and drugging at a furious pace while writing a handful of striking tunes that were often beautiful but also reflected his bitterness and frustration with his career (and the music business in general). Production of the album wasn't completed so much as it simply stopped, and none of the major figures involved ever decided on a proper sequence for the finished songs, or even a title. (The album was also known as Sister Lovers and Beale Street Green at various times.) And yet, Third has won a passionate and richly deserved cult following over the years, drawn in by the emotional roller coaster ride of the songs, informed by equal parts love, loss, rage, fear, hope, and defeat.
The collaborative LP from Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett feels like an overheard discussion between two existential misfits. They sing songs about writing songs, covering each other in the process.