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Big Eyes

Almost Famous

(Grave Mistake; US: 14 May 2013; UK: Import)

Almost Famous is a good example of a band making an album before they’re ready. (Which is weird, because this is their second album, but never mind.) Big Eyes plays the kind of bouncy, guitar-driven power-pop-punk that relies heavily on melody and vocals to drive the tunes and make an impression. After all, at this point there are literally thousands of guitar bands out there, and one distorted riff sounds much like another. So it’s up to the voice of Kate Elridge to carry the day, and sadly she’s not up to it. Even by the admittedly low DIY standards of garage rock or pop-punk, Elridge’s voice is just too weak and wavery to make an impression. The rest of the trio is serviceable on drums and bass, with Elridge on guitar duties, but even when the band is tight, as on “Wanted Sometimes”, “The Sun Still Shines” or album opener “Nothing You Could Say”, the music is undercut by Elridge’s inability to hold a note without going flat. It’s too bad, because some songs have promise: the catchy riff of “Can’t Catch a Break”, for example, or the midtempo groove of “Being Unkind”. I’m no music Nazi, and plenty of terrific singers aren’t technically proficient, but a certain basic degree of chops is needed. Big Eyes doesn’t have it.

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DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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