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13th May 2024

Big Foot’s EP ‘Smir’: Is the Activities and Culture Officer’s music any good?

Robbie Beale was elected because of his work with GABS. But how good is his band’s music?
Big Foot’s EP ‘Smir’: Is the Activities and Culture Officer’s music any good?
Credit: Big Foot band

You might know who Robbie Beale is. By day, he’s the Activities and Culture Officer at the Students’ Union. By night, he’s a guitarist in a band. We all have to have dreams. His quartet, Big Foot, self-describe as “psychedelic rock from the South-West, based in the North-West.” This, their first real EP, Smir is four songs long. The question I’m setting out to answer is: Is the music of the Activities and Culture Officer actually any good?

The word Smir, I’m told in a press release that describes their writing as “fiercely deliberate,” is a “Gaelic word for the foggy rain that shrouds the sea and gets under your skin.” It’s an EP ostensibly “framed by the enigmatic allure of the sea,” but it’s hard not to understand Smir as a meditation on loneliness.

The EP’s first song opens with pulsing synth and drums that drive right at the front of the pocket. The guitar writing, it must be said, is clever and compelling throughout, never flashy or in your face, but characterised by interesting, thoughtful writing. It’s the only song with a breakdown, and it’s well worth your attention – it’s one of the high points of the EP; there are a few moments of really tantalising chromaticism that show just how much Big Foot have to offer.

Yet for all these strengths, ‘F.A.’ never quite arrives where you want it to. It tries to erupt, but it doesn’t. It plays it just slightly too safe. There are no vocals through the second half, and there’s slightly too much reverb on the guitar, which lends the music a nice expansiveness, but means that we, the listener, are always held at arm’s length. The vulnerability of the song’s opening lyrics “Please don’t go home / no you’ll never be alone” just isn’t reciprocated by the later instrumentation.

‘Currently in Control’, the second song, has an interesting, ear-wormy, contrapuntal opening, with a wandering bassline that is punctuated well by restrained drumming. The first half sounds, at least to me, like an homage to The Smiths, albeit one lacking the same lyrical ambition. The song’s ending is more in keeping with the rest of the EP, and while both halves make for interesting listens, I’m not quite sure what they’re doing in the same song.

For sure, the EP’s high point is its third track and lead single ‘Harbour’. Its guitar-only opening pairs finger-style work with a gorgeously capacious slide guitar. The tones – drum, guitar, vocal – cohere in a way that they don’t necessarily throughout the rest of the EP. There’s an urgency that edges on panic in the middle sections; a desperation to claw something back that is already gone.

Lyrically, it’s by far the most moving song of the whole EP. Simple but tender, the words that bookend the song “I had sand between my toes / as I walked with you along the winding coast / to the harbour / where no-one goes / they asked me where you went and I said / no-one knows” seem not just isolated and vulnerable, but truly elegiac, almost haunted.

It couldn’t be an indie-boy EP without at least one acoustic song with vinyl-crackle foley, now, could it? Fear not – the EP’s eponymous fourth track delivers. I’m not entirely sold on the instrumentation: acoustic guitar combined with a piano (which has had its top-end EQ-ed out of existence), and a voice occupying the same register. It gets quite muddy at points, but the points of clarity are really quite enjoyable. It’s the vocal performance of the EP, that’s for sure.

It feels slightly absurd, the first time you hear the lyrics “I’m not / getting any younger” from the mouth of a man in his early twenties, but by the end of the song, it makes sense. The track is nostalgic, but not for the past; rather, this is a kind of self-reflexive nostalgia, an anticipatory nostalgia for the present. We will never again inhabit our current moment.

So – to return to my initial question: is the A&C’s music any good? Short answer – I think so. It’s an EP characterised by vulnerability, and an angsty, restless tension. It’s not perfect, not pristine, not polished – but that’s what makes it interesting.

Jacob Hartley

Jacob Hartley

co-Managing Editor (News and Current Affairs)

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