“Guitar music is dead.” Google it. It’s a topic that NME, The Guardian, VICE and about 94,100 other websites have all discussed; although actual quote attributions range from as wide as Kasabian‘s Serge earlier this year, to a story dating back to the 1960’s about a record label passing on signing The Beatles. Whether it is gently weeping or viciously thrashing its jangly sounds into your ear holes, this is the era that the humble Fender Stratocaster and company drifted into obscurity. Apparently. Unless the guitar in question is an acoustic hanging from a strap around a ginger lad from Suffolk.
If one chap on stage singing nostalgically about his early twenties and beyond isn’t your bag (unless that man is Billy Bragg) then you need not worry. Guitar music has its saviour. The Big Moon are the bouncy, goofy, “trying to seduce but stepping in dog poo” sound from a The Breeders-meets-Weezer garage band that the music scene didn’t even know it was desperate for.
The foursome comprises indie rockers from London, fronted by lead singer Juliette Jackson, with bassist Celia Archer, guitarist Sophie Nathan and drummer Fern Ford. Their stunning debut album, Love in the 4th Dimension, was produced by Catherine Marks and recorded in just 12 days prior to its release in April 2017 by Fiction Records. From start to finish, it is packed to the rafters with catchy choruses (‘Silent Movie Susie’, ‘Bonfire’), punchy riffs (‘The Road’, ‘Sucker’) and often upbeat and relatable lyrics (‘Happy New Year’, ‘Love in the 4th Dimension’) that even the aforementioned wordsmith Billy Bragg would be proud of.
But the tracks weren’t written overnight. Although the band were put together by lead writer Jackson in 2014 as The Moon (before a swift name change), their songs were honed at live club gigs in the capital, festivals up and down the country, tours across the pond in the US and Canada, and as part of BBC Introducing; the band rarely seem to stop. And they still find time to perform with close friend and collaborator Marika Hackman, performing as the backing band for her second album, I’m Not Your Man, for Sub Pop earlier this year – who herself can be seen in The Big Moon‘s video for recent single ‘Pull The Other One’ – or in Soph Nathan’s case, writing with her shoe-gazing trio, Our Girl.
Their self-confessed Pixies influences are never more apparent than in the third track on the album (and their third single), ‘Cupid’, released last year. Heavy distortion breaks Jackson’s gentle melodic voice, perfectly reflecting the lyrics of the clumsy ups and downs of flirting:
“Yeah, baby, take my wallet, my round. See my Johnny artfully tucked out. Draw the arrow back. Steel yourself. Tighten the string on the bow.”
In a YouTube clip from a live performance of ‘Nothing Without You’ (Live at CMJ 2015), Ford reveals that the band “have a pre-show ritual where we already congratulate each other on a great show”. Archer adds that they say “well done, good luck, I love you” to one another before they even go on stage. She said: “We just like hugging. We’re a very huggy band. We’ve got a lot of love for each other.”
Anybody who has seen them perform together on stage can testify to this, but just listen to the emotional chimes of ‘Formidable’ to hear the warmth, love and closeness that binds these four talented musicians together. The connection and energy that they share in a live atmosphere has thankfully been captured on the album. which was nominated for the 2017 Hyundai Mercury Prize earlier this month, losing out to soul singer Sampha‘s album, Process.
Nevertheless, whether they are performing their own material, working with other artists, or even covering songs like Madonna‘s ‘Beautiful Stranger’ and Andy Williams‘s Christmas classic ‘It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year’, while The Big Moon no doubt continue on this upwards trajectory, guitar music is very much in safe hands.
The Big Moon kick off their UK tour in Coventry at the Central Library on 23 September. Seeing them live? Listened to the album? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.