Friday, February 26, 2021

When midnight comes

I'm a fan of Big Eyes, the rockin' band that Kait Eldridge has steered since 2011. Among lineup shifts and a Brooklyn-to-Seattle-to-Brooklyn U-turn a few years back, the band's released four albums and a handful of singles, each devoted to riffing, 70s' inspired rock and roll. Eldridge is a great songwriter and a terrific, belting singer, and I'm as enamored of her record collection and Spotify listening habits as I am her considerable chops; she's one of those who gets rock and roll and its formal, classicist origins, who's not shy about producing un-ironic, guitar-driven pop songs dirtied up by muscular riffs and a dark lyrical perspective. And fuck yeah she'd like to sell millions of records and play arenas. The lineup on Big Eyes' most recent album, the terrific Streets Of The Lost—Eldridge singing and on guitar, Paul and Jeff Ridenour on guitar and bass, and Scott McPherson on drums—plays tight, hooky songs as if a secure place on the radio and most-streamed lists is their amplified birthright.

On the occasion of Streets Of The Lost's release, Eldridge remarked to Bushwick Daily that over the decade the group has gotten "tighter and the band’s sound has become more of what I envisioned when I first started the project." She was 20 when she started the band "and not as good at the guitar as I am now," she admits. "It took a couple of albums to get a more hard rock edge that I wanted." As her playing and songwriting grew more assured, she found herself intrigued with writing from multiple perspectives, acknowledging that some of the record is "very dark," adding, "I wanted to branch out and tackle more topics. You can only write so many songs about someone who broke your heart or a friend that’s wronged you, so I tried to write from the perspectives of people that don’t usually have a voice or a perspective that isn’t typically heard." She passes these new perspectives through cords and amps plugged into her bedrock source: 1970s rock, revealing that she'd spun Blue Öyster Cult "a lot" whole writing the album. "We get the comparison to Thin Lizzy, which is amazing and flattering," she says. "I think it’s more Blue Öyster Cult, though. A few years ago, we were listening to a lot of Kansas. We’re all digging more hard rock and progressive rock stuff."

Eldridge ambitiously threads BÖC grandiosity and Lynott-styled melodramatic desperation throughout several strutting songs on the crisply-produced Streets Of The Lost, though my favorite right now is "When Midnight Comes," a four-on-the-floor, packed-club-ready anthem about the joys and dangers of the early hours. Perhaps because in the Covid era it's been so long since I've run around at midnight, spilling drinks or having them spilled on me, that the song moves me so, yet I'm also knocked about by the song's propulsion and amped-up vibe. The singer's running the streets of Chinatown, threatening to wreak havoc and earn her stripes when the clock strikes twelve because she's not your pet, you can't put her in a box: she's a threat, so check the locks. The song's driven by a twin-guitar riff, a perpetual motion machine that sags and lifts nearly simultaneously: the night's second wind. It's all a bit menacing, but there's some posing, too; it's a very sexy song, playful in its grasping of a few hours of fun, and maybe some meanness, in a run of dark, tiny bars. But there's no sense of toxicity or self-abuse here; it's a roar of release before life arrives again, as it will tomorrow morning. She sings with a half grin.

"No, it's not a phase, it's just a putrid stage when midnight comes," Eldridge sings at the song's close. I'm seeing a literal stage in that line, whether she intends that or not. I'm looking forward to watching her band rip into this one under stage lights come some mythic midnight.

Illustration by Nicole Rifkin

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