It’s that time of year again; the summer flowers are beginning to wane, the days are getting shorter…and the Mercury Prize is just around the corner. Something of an institution in the UK music industry, the prize’s mission since its 1992 inauguration has been to celebrate the best from Britain and Ireland. Not only that, but the profile-boost which results from making it onto the shortlist, as well as the £25,000 cash injection for the winner, is pivotal in stimulating the cash-strapped underground music scene.
Last year the stand-out winner was Skepta for Konnichiwa, one of the most exciting and innovative releases to come out of British and Irish music in the past decade. This year is less clear-cut, with an eclectic selection of diverse talents. However, when looking at the list of twelve nominees, a clear(ish) winner emerges: Love in the Fourth Dimension from London-based punk-pop quartet The Big Moon. The group formed a mere three years ago in 2014, with Love in the Fourth Dimension forming their debut album. The fact that the group has been nominated for a debut effort puts them in something of a privileged category. However, they’ve got a lot more to offer than beginner’s luck.
The punk and post-punk scene are still experiencing a strong male bias, but The Big Moon are part of a wave of female fronted groups like Black Honey shaking things up and rejuvenating a pretty cliquey corner of music. Their music seems deceptively simple; an infectious pop sensibility played out in rough-and-ready guitar and drums. Yet there’s something compelling about this mix, one which implicitly combines genres and involves a collision of two worlds which we tend to see as ‘feminine’ on the one side and ‘masculine’ on the other. However, to boil their worth down to the matter of female representation feels a disservice, especially when Kate Tempest and The xx have also made it to the shortlist. The Big Moon are refreshing in more ways than this, and in ways which are subtle, nuanced and hard to put your finger on.
The Big Moon offer something sorely missing from much critically acclaimed music, something which you might not have even realised was missing: a sense of humour. The band’s songwriter and lead singer Jules Jackson evidences her dry, ironic wit throughout the album. It’s specifically evident on tracks like ‘Cupid,’ where she not-so-subtly pokes fun at a particularly persistent type of male with the lines: ‘Yeah, baby, take my wallet, my round/ See my Johnny artfully tucked out.’ Or on ‘Pull the Other One’ a track dealing with cringe-worthy dating world antics and featuring the line: ‘when you got me roses/ I just couldn’t bare to see them/ I had to hide them behind the settee.’
Another clear strong point is Jackson’s vocals, which serve as an important entry point for those new to The Big Moon’s music. With a lot of punk and rock gravitating to more shoe-gazey shores it’s certainly a relief to hear something different going on with vocals. The singer’s deep, inviting voice crackles with warmth — bidding the casual listener to delve a bit deeper, listen a bit longer, and fall into the band’s sonic world. Furthermore, her playful delivery, full of quirky intonation, off-beat phrasing and sudden shifts in tone, is what gives songs a lot of their bite. A clear sense of personality and of who The Big Moon are as a band, emerges, aided by the confessional note of many of the featured songs. There’s something so very sincere about the band, despite the diverse personae which the songs showcase. Perhaps it has something to do with the group’s DIY spirit, forming off the back of a Facebook post and staying together due to shared interests and good chemistry. With The Big Moon, it’s not about being cool, it’s not about making money — it’s just about the music.
Indie rock might be dead but acts like The Big Moon definitely have the capacity to bring it back from the brink. With all songs being written by Jackson, and a lo-fi feel, The Big Moon is a manifestation of the independent, rebellious spirit which epitomises the Mercury Prize at its best.
Words Megan Wallace.