Ah the politics of mattress spring and headboard. Sure it’s a staple of any songwriter’s canon. Hell, some have even made entire albums on the topic. And into that sex obsessed tradition step Big Deal – an East London duo comprised of Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood. On their debut LP, the pair performs a set that rarely leaves the bedroom. Worth pointing out at this point, is the navel gazing nature of these boot knockin’ ballads. Where Marvin Gaye can get away with an upbeat LP devoted to getting down (Let’s Get It On), or indeed Leonard Cohen can craft a poetic caricature of a late night lothario (Death Of A Ladies Man), the best Big Deal manage is missionary mediocrity. Theirs are the tales of tumultuous tumbles, ending too often in heartache and woe. Take for example the enthralling ‘Chair’. By far Big Deal’s best song, it sees a relationship sour before it’s begun: “you don’t trust me to sit on your bed, put me on a chair in the corner instead”, croons Costelloe. Floating on a melody catchier than crabs it’ll be with you for weeks whether you like it or not.
Thereafter Lights Out moves little from its comfort zone. Across a formulaic pattern of stripped back grunge, the duo delivers a collection of diminishing returns. Driven only by their vocals and two chugging guitars (one acoustic, one electric), the Big Deal structure becomes stale and repetitive. Similarly delivering even their most celebratory of love songs with a world-weary drawl, tracks ‘Swoon’ and ‘Visions’ sound halfhearted and dull.
For all these failings, the pair do finish strong. Ending with the intimate whispers of ‘Pi’, the less is more approach works to wonderful affect. Drawing us in like Cat Power’s finest, it’s a beautifully delicate and convincing conclusion. In contrast, much can be said for the terse jibes of ‘Talk’ – a delightful blend of bitterness and harmonies. If willing to expand beyond their hit and miss blueprint, Big Deal might be more than an ironic name. For now we have a pleasant but predictable album.