Album Review: Big Deal – ‘Lights Out’

More grungy than gooey

What started with a few well-intentioned folky songstresses making an honourable crossover into indie has led to an epidemic: fey UK. The subtleties of [b]Marling[/b] and [b]Newsom[/b] have been lost on hundreds of copycats. The alt-folk legacy is basically that advert in the guitar shop and Birdy, a 12-year-old who covers last year’s indie hits in the style of a bereaved finch.

[a]Big Deal[/a] – the London boy/girl duo made up of Alice Costelloe, KC Underwood and their considerable age gap – could be mistaken for just another wimpy acoustic band at first glance: their debut has plenty of fragile guitars and schoolgirl subject matter. But their songs are more grungy than gooey: super lo-fi recordings that sound equal parts [a]Sonic Youth[/a] and [a]The Moldy Peaches[/a].

It’d also be a mistake to take songs about homework and being walked home from school as first-love naivety. Rather, these are open wounds in a broken relationship. Costelloe and Underwood deal with a taboo of teenagedom: that at precisely the same moment that girls are at their most vulnerable, they’re also at their most sexually powerful and emotionally stubborn.

Taken on their own, lyrics like “[i]Take me to your bed/Don’t take me home/I want to be old[/i]” and “[i]It’s OK, I’m just a kid[/i]” sound initially like a fairly gross Lolita fantasy. But elsewhere on the record there’s a girl just grappling for help: “[i]All I want to do is talk, seeing you fucks me up[/i]”, Costelloe begs on ‘[b]Talk[/b]’. When desperation turns to desire there’s a bruising clash of ego and longing on bitter lyrics like, “[i]You just want me from the songs I write about you, about how I like you[/i]”.

[a]Big Deal[/a] are acutely afflicted with youth. Yet far from an angsty record, this is a microcosmic study of a complex relationship. The duo’s uniform harmonies on almost every line sound less like a screaming match and more like a conversation in malfunction. By the end, they’ve told a story of adolescence spent crumpling at the hands of others, while having to pick up the pieces all by yourself.

Birdy better give this a listen. She’s got all this to look forward to.

Sam Wolfson



  • Record label: Mute
  • Release date: 05 Sep, 2011