It is an argument as old as time. Or at least the last fifty odd years anyway. When you are writing and recording your new LP, do you stick with a winning formula or make a change, listen to new styles and let that infuse your new songs?
If you change and it doesn’t go down well with the fanbase then there’s the cry of “why fix what isn’t broken”. Come back with a similar sounding but ultimately worse record and you are lambasted for being unoriginal and rehashing your last album.
The pressure is even greater when your debut is a Mercury Prize nominated stonewall modern classic. The Big Moon wouldn’t have gotten away with anything less than another pop parlour of perfection.
So what was a collection of guitar hooks and indie pop melodies that soared like a jumbo jet containing Fleetwood Mac, Blondie, Hole and The Bangles, for album two they’ve packed up the guitar pedals, dusted off a synthesiser and discovered a box of old 80’s records and embraced the best of the nineties girl bands.
Opener and first single that we heard way back in the summer ‘It’s Easy Then’ is a minimal and simple keyboard lead tune that relies on their close harmonies that hark back to All Saints in their prime. Elsewhere their humour and Juliet’s sharp and witty lyrics combine with the delivery to give it all a Bananarama infusion.
“Your Light” comes very early and is easily the strongest single so far and is the kind of perfect pop that should catapult them into the mainstream glitterati.
What is very clear is that Juliet Jackson is an expert pop songwriter. From the balance of clever, relevant and funny lyrics, to the brilliantly crafted melodies with stellar bridges and stunning middle eights, if these songs were handed to Ed Sheeran or Taylor Swift on a plate they’d be huge hits.
The issue with the album isn’t one of the songs, it’s the recording. Such is the fashion for production to be so crystal clear with a bright as the sun sheen and drums compressed to within an inch of their skins and next to no imperfections or nuance, that something is lost. Jackson has admitted that she didn’t want to write another Love in the 4th Dimension and whilst this is still very much a Big Moon record, they are stylistically diverse. However, these songs are universal. They are reproduced live with more bite, more depth than the record and are not worse for it. They could be performed any way and still be great songs.
‘Don’t Think’ has a Shard size sky-scraping chorus that is built up to effortlessly and subtly that surprises you and takes off before climaxing with the most guitar found on the record as Soph chops out a fat riff in the outro. Once again, live this song launches like a lunar rocket.
‘Holy Roller’ is a highlight, apparently the first song written for the album and is the closest thing to anything from their debut LP. There are layers to it with lush instrumentation which is at odds with some of the other tracks sparse approach.
Closing track ‘ADHD’ is arguably the weakest effort which is a shame as the final song on an album is so important and should be anthemic and epic or very understated and delicate. It should be a statement which ‘Your Light’, ‘Don’t Think’ or ‘Holy Roller’ would have been. There is nothing wrong with it as such so debatably this is more about track placement.
The Big Moon have stuck to their guns and not followed a path well-trodden but taken all their influences and laid them out without worrying about what they’ve done before or what is expected of them. As they say on penultimate track ‘A Hundred Ways to Land’ “We don’t know where we’re going, but we’re walking like we do”. A journey of interplanetary proportions.