The Big Moon. Photo by Ian Bourne

The Big Moon, The Amazons, Crystal Castles – House of Vans, London (12th May 2016) – LIVE REVIEW

Fiction Record show off their latest ‘Big Things’ at House of Vans party

Record label Fiction are having a party underneath the vaults of Waterloo station at House of Vans. This is the label that looks after The Cure, The Maccabees and a whole load of other successes and failures in between. Lots of the people at the gig have won tickets in a ballot. “The only reason I’m here is for The Big Moon,” says a teenage girl excitedly at the end of their triumphant nine-song set. Trust and respect teenage girl music fans. The Big Moon do, charmingly hanging around to chat and sign seven-inch pre-release copies of ‘Cupid’, the new single, after their set.

The reason The Big Moon stand out from Palace and The Amazons, the other newish bands on the set tonight, or from Crystal Castles, still trying to reinvent themselves here after the controversial departure of singer Alice Glass, is punctuation. Like a properly written story, article or essay, each song by The Big Moon has a beginning, middle, ending, signposts, stops, starts, pauses, and motifs. Each song makes the audience feel smart for picking up on the syntax, however complex, and that’s because the punctuation is so clear and thoughtful. In contrast, The Amazons, who are next on tonight, are easily classified. They sound like The Vaccines and The Strokes. It’s formulaic and fun, but not inspiring. The tall flame-haired lead singer has a lovely red and black shirt, but sartorial style is not enough.

Amazons. Photo by Ian Bourne

Crystal Castles end the evening’s live slots, but it’s sad to see how the loss of a charismatic talisman can render a formerly inspirational electro-indie-goth-emo-industrial-rave synth songwriter into a useless dirge merchant. For some reason, Ethan Kath no longer even trusts his own electronic drum programming, using a drummer to add mechanical beef where none is needed. New singer Edith Frances tries to be dark and sparky, but never comes close to Glass’s intensity, despite warming to her task.

Earlier, The Big Moon need no warming up, bursting straight into ‘Suzie’, their voices in perfect harmony, with echoes of late Ramones, and twinned guitar twists slowing up and speeding down. A screech of feedback and stop-start drums takes the growing crowd down ’The Road’, the second single, with drummer Fern Ford playing keyboards to a reggae guitar riff and Juliette Jackson’s plaintiff lyric, “People can change…. I’m not the same.”

A big guitar noise from Soph Nathan and machine-gun drumming from Ford make ‘Eureka Moment’ an instant hit with Fiction’s House of Vans crowd, as Jackson and Nathan duel on guitars. Bassist Celia Archer introduces ‘Cupid’, the new single, as “a real thing you can hold in your hands,” defying the download culture and reclaiming the tactile delight of vinyl. The song is punctuated by an already iconic vocal, as Jackson sings, “Pineapple juice, tropical rubicon courage.” Straight through, without pause, to ‘Nothing Without You’ — goosebump-inducing 60s punk-pop — sinewy, snaking and bopping.

Archer’s seductive bass brings a whole new dimension to Madonna’s ‘Beautiful Stranger’, which is turned in punctuated steps into a punk, soul, grunge classic — far better the the original. Discordant guitars, a 60s garage sound, drums rolls and prefect three-part vocal harmonies make ‘Pull The Other One’ another great song, with Jackson taking a star turn on guitar at the end.

‘Formidable’ starts quietly, blending drummer Ford’s keyboards and stranded notes from Nathan and Jackson’s guitars that call out emotionally, until a blur of chords takes it towards a sudden satisfying end. The Big Moon finish with early single ‘Sucker’— a writhing, sensuous piece with snapping percussion and that cute organ from Ford. “I never thought that you would be-come my greatest friend,” they sing. There’s not much around at the moment that’s more fun than making friends with The Big Moon.

This The Big Moon article was written by Ian Bourne, a GIGsoup contributor. Photos by Ian Bourne.