This has got to be one of the most anticipated releases of 2013, or at least for me it has been. Big Eyes' debut album Hard Life, which came out back in 2011, was all about catchy tracks that gave a sense of bands such as The Ramones and The Muffs. However, subsequent releases including the single Back From The Moon which was also on Grave Mistake, have hinted at a band with some space to grow. As such, the appreciation for this threesome (once of Brooklyn, NY but now firmly ensconced in Seattle, WA) has been growing steadily, to the point where they're no longer flying so far under the radar of the music fans and press.
Initial impressions of Almost Famous are that there has been no loss in The Ramones/The Muffs-like quality of Big Eyes' earlier material, but there has been a noticeable change in the sound of the band, in that it comes across as bigger and better. All which is evident from the first ten seconds of the opening track "Nothing You Could Say." Additionally, the languid vocals of Kate Eldridge seem to have more confidence about them, and I'm guessing that the time spent fronting this band (plus her previous band Cheeky) has aided this improvement, but to be honest her voice was born for rock'n'roll and has never been short of the mark. The guitar playing of Eldridge is another factor that has changed (some of which is due to using different equipment) and in addition to having a bigger sound from the six strings, there also seems to be more prominent guitar work in the songs ("Losing Touch" is a prime example of this). It's not all about Eldridge though, as the rhythm section of Dillan Lazzareschi (drums) and Chris Costalupes (bass) provide a complementary spine to the proceedings without any overt fanfare - in particular the bass sound in the opening track is sublime and caresses my ears in an almost obscene way as it slides into play.
"The Sun Still Shines" shows that for all the growing that might have been done within the band, Eldridge can still knock out a snarling delivery (a la Kim Shattuck of The Muffs) if she feels the need. The catchiness displayed on Hard Life isn't lost either, and to be fair the format of the band hasn't changed a great deal, it's just that all three members of the band seem to be firing on all cylinders from start to finish and doing so with much more self-assurance, which comes through in the songwriting and performing. Almost Famous ends on a particularly big high with "You Ain't The Only One" being perhaps the most mainstream of the eleven tracks, but without any dilution of the simple charm that any of the other ten songs contain. To be honest, there are no lows on this album and Big Eyes have outdone their debut album in quite a significant way, with the warmer and enhanced sound matched by a suite of very strong songs.
Big Eyes are a band on the up and clearly worthy of the attention they're getting - Almost Famous might be a title chosen to mock the band's status in a self-deprecating way, but it would come as no surprise if this album takes the band to new levels in terms of popularity; so much so, that a third album might well be called We Made It.
Additionally, I would imagine that this will be the biggest selling record that Grave Mistake Records will have had up to now, as Almost Famous has the appeal to go well beyond the sometimes narrow confines of the punk/indie crowd, and if there is any justice in this world Big Eyes will reach that wider audience and as a by-product give both band and label the ability to keep on doing what they are doing so well.