Debut album ‘Love In The 4th Dimension’ from The Big Moon is a non-stop pleasure to listen to from the moment the guitar shredding starts on ‘Sucker’. It’s fresh and fun, consisting of improved renditions of fan favourites, whacky touches and new numbers.
The uplifting, lilting ‘Sucker’, their first single, gets a new lease of life as the album’s re-recorded opener. Percussion from Fern Ford snaps to attention, guitars crank up for each chorus (“And it got colder every day, but I wouldn’t change my mind…I’m a sucker for you ”), and the song slows down beautifully just ahead of the heartfelt line, “I never thought that I would become your greatest friend.” Juliette Jackson means every line of the lyrics, there are shrieked wolf calls of “ow, ow, wooh” in the background (like The Clash on ‘London Calling’) and Ford, the drummer, plays woozy organ lines.
A melody recalling Blondie at their peak starts ‘Pull The Other One’, with backing vocal “ooh, oohs” and discordant guitars reminiscent of The Undertones. A slick, understated guitar break takes the track to its conclusion, when a dropped tambourine adds humour. The tender opening bars of last year’s single ’Cupid’ are sweet and swaying, the guitar work from Soph Nathan and Jackson fresher than ever ahead of the refrain of “Sorry, I’m not your guy” and when the song repeatedly crescendoes with ”Ooh, I’ve been waiting for a girl like you”.
Friendship song ‘Formidable’ is anthemic and passionate. After Jackson asks, “Did she make you swallow all your pride, does the love still shudder down your spine?” Ford’s wonderfully tinny keyboards come in, then The Big Moon perfectly execute a quiet-to-loud moment. Backing vocal harmonies from bassist Celia Archer are gorgeous and Nathan’s guitar soars.
A jokey start to ‘Bonfire’ sees a couple of random guitar notes and a bonkers count-in, but the song catches fire after more Undertones-style guitar. It’s syncopated and snaking, with Archer’s bass utterly beguiling, the guitars and drums breaking magnificently, and more Strummer style yelping. “I’m so bored I could burn this whole town,” Jackson sings in best punk tradition, and the epic chorus of “we’ll start a bonfire” is bound to make for incendiary sing-alongs.
A new recording of early single ‘The Road’ gains a crisp electronic percussive snap from Ford, whose electric organ sounds better than ever, along with the familiar reggae guitar riff and plaintive lyrics. ‘Happy New Year’ is sheer bubblegum pop; Jackson’s syrupy voice goes through a sugary key change while the guitar register rises triumphantly. The big, bold drum rolls and joyful guitar of September’s summery single ‘Silent Movie Susie’, with its echoes of late Ramones and voices in perfect harmony, help make The Big Moon a band for all seasons.
The album ends with three new songs. Impassioned vocals in ‘Love In The 4th Dimension’ accompany Archer’s hopping bass and a hard guitar edge in a mix of ’60s harmony group and garage sounds. ‘Zeds’, slow and mature, features ace keyboards and treated vocals. ‘The End’ is sincere and touching, as the jangling guitars — like Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers — build into a buzzing finale, including orchestral strings, with something akin to the sound that Phil Spector gave ‘End of the Century’.
Jackson is a great pop song writer, singer and guitarist. Archer’s bass is sumptuous and enthralling. Nathan’s guitar work shines, rings out and reverberates — duelling with Jackson’s. Ford’s percussion and keyboards are snappy, happy and crackling. Together, they mesh and harmonise to make The Big Moon deliver on all of their promises.
‘Love In The 4th Dimension’ is released on 7th April via Fiction.
Live picture credits: Ian Bourne