Seattle is made out to be such a dreary place. Big Eyes released a largely positive-sounding debut in Hard Life and the reviews basically talked about the band’s relocation from Brooklyn to Seattle. Now, with the release of sophomore full-length Almost Famous, the press sheet says things like “a bit of Seattle seeps in,” no doubt referring to some of the darker-tinged passages.
The three-piece features guitarist/vocalist Kate Eldridge, formerly of Used Kids and Cheeky. While her voice is familiar, Big Eyes are truly their own band. The band takes a classic guitar-driven rock soil and has planted some punk rock that’s grown into a healthy, shimmering flower. Yes, I just used a gardening metaphor. It’s that punk rock. The overall sound is hard to pin down exactly, because it’s seems so clearly punk rock, but most of the descriptors come from an earlier era of straight-forward rock a la Joan Jett, where the guitar and vocal tone dominate far more than the lyricism. A danceable sway lies at the heart of the hooks, even while the songs explore less positive themes.
The live show has been strong for Big Eyes due to their strong chops and relentless tour schedule—they’ve likely played Minneapolis 3-4 times since their first album, and in that time they’ve really honed in and focused their sound. Almost Famous follows right in line with Hard Life, but it’s more succinct and more powerful. The songs feel tighter and Eldridge’s vocals atop the band’s big sound has drawn into a powerful conveyance of emotion, best exemplified in “Back from the Moon” and “Friday Nights.” The starter “Nothing You Could Say” is as good a reference as any, quickly delivering its message with big chords, a sticky bassline, and building rhythm that pulls into the opening verse as Eldridge sets the tone with “Who’s to say? And who’s to blame/ When we just don’t feel the same/ It’s obvious that we’re not even playing the same game.” The tone is longing, but confident, personal but universal.
While the band has a distinct and clear style, they mix it up enough to keep things interesting over a full-length. “A Matter of Time” drops in a 1950s pop-style chorus, “Half the Time” slows it down, and “The Sun Still Shines” has some of that “Pacific Northwest” darkness to it via a muddier bass that contrasts nicely with the guitar crunch. There are levels of influence from across the rock spectrum without detracting from the signature tone. The growth on this record was expected given their live show, but the punch it carries is still a bit surprising. It’s powerful without being blunt; it’s catchy without being earworm; and it’s got a distinct voice without becoming samey.
Posted Sept. 24, 2016, 11:15 p.m.
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Posted Aug. 14, 2016, 11:12 a.m.
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Posted July 20, 2016, 3:22 p.m.
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