“But dark matter and your naked body / Fill in the space between all I can explain,” sings Juliette Jackson in the first verse of “Love in the 4th Dimension” from The Big Moon’s Mercury Prize-nominated debut album of the same name. But she’s capable of explaining more than she thinks. The lead singer of the London rock quartet excels at depicting the fluctuating intimacy between people and the circumstances that determine that distance. On “Pull the Other One,” her significant other is trying to forcefully enter the door that separates them. Throughout “Cupid,” she’s dodging the arrows of potential suitors, and on “Zeds,” she’s losing sleep night after night from yearning for someone. While Jackson’s relationships come and go, the band’s sticky pop melodies and playful shared vocals become burned into your psyche like that brace-faced, zit-covered school portrait that will haunt you forever.
On The Big Moon’s second album Walking Like We Do, their benevolent rock ‘n’ roll contains far more sonic possibilities. They expand far beyond the framework of their debut, but the hooks that made their first album so tantalizing are still here. Their first two singles are decidedly different than the rock rapture of “Bonfire” or the brooding guitar pop of “Formidable”: “It’s Easy Then” sounds like a rock song was dragged underwater and resurfaced as a bubbly synth-pop hit, and on “Your Light,” they swim to shore and bake in the sun with their positively radiant vocals and shimmering synths.
Elsewhere, “Waves” is a full-on piano ballad with only brief use of percussion, and the layered vocals in the minute-long outro constitute their most transcendent moment as a band so far. Even though it would’ve been a great album closer, it’s an unexpectedly angelic highlight. “Holy Roller” provides some vocal snarl and a rare instance of guitar ferocity while “Take a Piece” channels all your favorite cheesy ’90s pop groups—and their bucket hats, tracksuits and tube tops in the accompanying music video truly captures that vibe. It’s probably safe to say you won’t find many bands brave enough to churn out meaty guitar fuzz, then Backstreet Boys nostalgia on consecutive album tracks.
“Dog Eat Dog” is an even more noticeable departure. The flowy, piano-led song contains electronic percussion and operatic backing vocals. The track is also emblematic of the album’s expansion of lyrical themes. “They say it’s dog eat dog but / It’s more like pigeon eating fried chicken on the street,” Jackson sings, but underlying that humor is a social critique of systematic oppression. The song was inspired by London’s Grenfell Tower tragedy, and there are no Big Moon lines more searing than these: “I guess tailored suits don’t grow on trees / And tragedies eventually turn into memes / You only build bridges when the river wets your feet / You only felt the fire when you felt the heat.”
Walking Like We Do is especially impactful because it’s a microcosm of the confusion, unrealistic expectations, freakouts, adrenaline and social pressures of young adulthood. On “Barcelona,” Jackson watches as friends move away, have children, purchase homes and even turn a profit on Bitcoin. Earlier, album opener “It’s Easy Then” sees Jackson dive headfirst into stress and meta-thinking—a perfect snapshot of late-night aimless thoughts that bookend many of our days. And if “red wine mixed with cola” and “porno sites and contour kits” (both from “Holy Roller”) doesn’t sum up the lives of millennials, then I don’t know what does.
But the album isn’t just about surviving the rising tide. Walking Like We Do wouldn’t work without the euphoric detours that make us actually want to put on one pant leg after another every morning. “Your Light” finds strength in the contagious energy of others and puts a mirror in front of our often irrational fears, while “A Hundred Ways to Land” is a reminder of the cyclical nature of life that continues to turn and keep things fresh no matter what. On the latter, Jackson also advocates for the kind of manufactured confidence that can become genuine self-belief: “We don’t know where we’re going / But we’re walking like we do,” Jackson sings. The final track, “ADHD,” warns of the harmful mental rehashing of situations, especially when others may have a completely different perspective. “I know you think you made a scene / But I just saw you shining,” sings Jackson with reassuring grace.
The Big Moon demonstrate both musical and lyrical versatility on Walking Like We Do. It might seem like a predictable move for a guitar band to unleash a keyboard-heavy album number two, but unlike other bands who have deployed this method, they don’t go so far down the wormhole that they lose their original appeal. The Big Moon have always thrived because of Jackson’s warm-hearted, relatable lyrics and those singalong moments that make their songs and live shows so infectious. Now that we know The Big Moon aren’t interested in trying to clone the tuneful guitar pop songs that brought them fans and acclaim, it seems like they want to be one of those acts that grows with their listeners—the best kind of band.
Revisit The Big Moon’s 2015 Daytrotter session: