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

[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