Stake My Claim
Don Giovanni Records
What if, when you got dressed in the morning , instead of selecting a particular outfit you just piled on everything you owned. Bathing suit, sweater, jeans, skirt, pajamas, leather jacket, hoodie, flip flops, boots, button shirt, baseball hat, t-shirt — just put it ALL on. It’d look ridiculous, is “what if.” It’s what you pick and choose to put on that makes you look either foxy, or just crazy like a fox.
It’s the same with music. Like how Russell Hammond explains his love of music to William Miller in Almost Famous, “It’s not what you put in, is it? It’s what you leave out.” It’s that single “woo” that pops up unexpected at the end of a verse, “That’s what you remember. The silly things, the little things… It’s what you leave out. That’s rock and roll.”
Kaitlyn Eldridge, who’s the wizard behind the musical moniker Big Eyes, operates within that philosophy. A guitar prodigy who writes seemingly simple punk rock ‘n’ roll songs that most other bands would crank through using power chords, Eldridge whips the simple melodies into high art with intricate lead guitar parts and solos slipped in where you’re not expecting them. The solos in songs like “Stake My Claim,” or in “When You Were 25” sound deceptively simple, but it’s in the restraint she shows that keep Big Eyes grounded in a power pop/punk mindset and out of the mastrubatory world of big Rock. You can hear it in her playing, she could rub those strings raw if she wanted to, but instead she decides to tease the melodies.
Every song has her signature guitar skills sprinkled throughout. The other thing they all have — these poppy breakdowns that beg to be danced to. “Behind Your Eyes,” “Giving It Up For Good,” even “Curse of the Tides,” which clocks in at less than a minute, are pure American Bandstand gold. The style is punk, the melodies are pop, and the guitar work is classic rock influenced. There’s no self consciousness of sticking to a certain genre, in the manner of Joan Jett (whom Eldridge sounds quite a bit like) she writes and plays like she doesn’t give a shit if she’s not punk enough to be punk, or too punk to be rock ‘n’ roll, or not pop enough to be marketed that way. It is what it is, and what Stake My Claim is, is one damn fine rock ‘n’ roll record.
To, again, quote Almost Famous — which, FYI, is also the name of Big Eyes’ second album: “Rock ‘n’ roll is a lifestyle and a way of thinking… and it’s not about money and popularity. Although, some money would be nice. But it’s a voice that says, ‘Here I am… and fuck you if you can’t understand me.'”