Even a mere 5 years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to hear hard-rocking, female-fronted bands like Blood Red Shoes and Speedy Ortiz venting their frustrations at there not being enough girls picking up guitars and turning up the distortion. Thus, their gender would inevitably become a point of discussion – hardly surprising, especially if they were even vaguely good-looking. Maddening as it may be, it’s what happens when women writing exclusively from their perspective is a relative novelty in the greater context of rock history. I hardly think there’s any insipid opposition to the idea within indie rock fans, who tend to be liberal almost by definition, as no one should want to miss out on the endless nuances of songs about ultra-relatable predicaments of 50% of the population (i.e. indie rock’s lifeblood), so when acts do come through they are received as a breath of fresh air.
Luckily, the indie community is becoming increasingly desensitised to women in rock with such acts as Wolf Alice, Honeyblood and Courtney Barnett to name criminally few. We may even be seeing what may potentially amount to a scene brewing in Brighton, spearheaded by the likes of Black Honey, Fickle Friends, and Dream Wife normalising the trend. Progress takes shape when there is diversity within female bands, so much so that being female stops being a defining, existential characteristic: and it takes one glance at The Big Moon to notice the unmistakable stamp over everything they touch.
The lifeblood, energy and spirit of the album is practically encapsulated by debut single and album opener Sucker, as Juliette Jackson’s sultry vocals take you over an uneasy, paranoid rhythm from the toxic uncertainty of lust to a place of sheer euphoria in just 3 minutes. It epitomises the dark depths and the soaring elations The Big Moon have on offer, on top of the fact Jackson doesn’t seem to be a sucker for anyone, especially on Pull The Other One, in which she cuttingly is just not that into someone.
The mischievous Bonfire harks back to the havoc of 2007 New York indie, channelling the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at their most nihilistic by fashioning a song about boredom fuelling a desire for anarchy. The music mimics the mayhem – though they may be having so much fun on record that at times they risk falling into caricature by overdoing the funny voices. Nevertheless, the band’s defining characteristics seem to be the utterly unsparing use of dynamics, innumerable tempo changes and unorthodox chord progressions which makes their music so intriguing – and it must be said, this would only amount to attention-seeking musical posturing were it not for the palpable musical and personal chemistry between these girls that ties it all together and pulls it off with shining finesse.
The band shows a penchant for the formula of tiptoeing ballad-turns-gargantuan rocker-turns-singalong, such as in Cupid and Formidable, and even on The Road – in which staccato guitar lines wander around with noughties curiosity – which proves to be a remarkably effective formula for them. Elsewhere, last summer’s jubilant single Silent Movie Susie may seem to be an lovelorn song on the surface about waiting for a lover to return for the summer, but as it’s in fact about Juliette’s nipple, its meaning must lie somewhere between ‘Free the Nipple’ and missing topless sunbathing – either way: banger.
From the existentialist abandon of Happy New Year, to the sleeplessness of Zeds, and the title track’s musings on how love may propel you beyond this earthly design into another dimension, it all suitably culminates in final track, The End, where one finds themselves no longer in the disintegrating romance where the album started, but in its opposite – newly smitten, despite all your best efforts. It is the album’s crowning glory.
In Love In The 4th Dimension, we find perhaps the most holistic female band of the year, but not due to instrumental mastery. Credit certainly goes to their inventive sense of adventure and Jackson’s ambitious songwriting, but the devil is in the detail, in the imperfections. Much like the most charming bands of old and new, like Hinds, like Palma Violets, like The Libertines, their true value lies less in musical ability and more in that fact they sell you a feeling. It’s the feeling that makes you want to be in the band, or just want to be mates with them, and which makes every musical mishap endearing and enticing. Much in the same way as Juliette recounts of how she started to cry the first time they played together – as she’d wanted to be in a band for so long and with songs written, had finally found, not the right musicians, but the right people – you’ll feel upon listening to The Big Moon that you’ve found the right band.