Single Review: Big Deal – Swapping Spit

By on Tuesday, 19th November 2013 at 12:00 pm

I don’t care for, nor have I really ever cared for boy/girl singing duos, or bands with male and female voices harmonising. This is an unfortunate position to be in as a music editor I suppose, since there seem to be so many of them right now! My guess, though, is that my lack of interest in them probably has to do with two things: my own vocal training as an alto, and the fact that I generally can’t stand women with those higher pitched, baby, Minnie Mouse-y voices. So I wondered why the latest single from Alice Costello and Kacey Underwood, aka Big Deal, affected me the way it did. Maybe it has subliminal messages hidden in it? If you listen to BBC 6music on a regular basis, you will understand when I say this song has been drilled into your consciousness over the last couple of weeks.

Along with ‘Teradactol’ released in December 2012 and March 2013’s ‘In Your Car’, ‘Swapping Spit’ is more evidence for anyone (especially for those who haven’t picked up their sophomore album ‘June Gloom’ yet) that the duo have decided to turn towards a harder edge than the one they began with on their 2011 debut ‘Lights Out’. Part of this is mechanical: the pair now have a bassist and drummer playing with them on recordings and live, so sonically, the entity of Big Deal can be and will be louder and more of an actual force of be reckoned with. In ‘Swapping Spit’, there are lovely muscular bass lines throughout as the melody chugs along and appropriately bright drum high hat hits during the chorus. So yay for that.

Upon further contemplation of this single, it dawned on me who the song reminded me of, with its washy guitars and gentle yet emotional lyrics: New York’s The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. The song begins by painting a scene of desolation in a parking lot (yes, Underwood is American, if you were wondering), a situation in which we find the lovers meeting and “we stay out after dark / we’re nowhere to be found / there’s no-one else around / there’s no one else to tell us we’re no good”. It’s not imagined; at least one of them (probably the voice that’s singing) is expressing the shame of what is about to transpire in a place where they’re so far removed from everyone and everything else.

I can’t find the lyrics to the song online, and the enunciation along with the lack of vocal clarity in the video isn’t great, so I had to guess at some of the other words. But the later phrases that were most interesting to me were “you feel it slip away, my heart is now my own, there’s no better way to go, there’s no better way to go”, followed by, “I thought I saw you shake following me home / I wanted you to know / I wanted you to spin the wheel again, swinging for the fence / what do I do, what do I do?” This seems to indicate to me that the plot is about mates who are ‘friends with benefits’, but one of them has fallen in love with the other person, and he/she is waiting for the other to make a grand pronouncement that the love is reciprocal. She wants to “give up giving in” to the act, repeating “I will, I will” as part of an emphatic declaration that will take her heart out of this mess. But it’s the worst kind of love. Unrequited love, with the first person being upset and trying to accept “all lovers swapping spit, I’ll get used to it” that nothing is going to happen beyond the physical sex that’s happening at this very moment. Heartbreaking, and in its sparseness of conveying so much emotion, it’s arguably the best track of ‘June Gloom’. Good job.


Both the single ‘Swapping Spit’ and the band’s second LP ‘June Gloom’ are now available from Big Deal’s label Mute Records.


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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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