Fiction - The Big Other

Even the finest slab of Hubba Bubba is liable to lose its sweet taste after a while, and ‘The Big Other’ soon descends into a lump of indigestible rubbery nothingness.

Label: Moshi Moshi

Rating: 5

Fiction have been busy spinning us a long, sparse narrative. In the fast-moving music world where it’s normal code to wait - ooh - about five minutes for a debut, this South West London band have kept us in suspense. In 2010 we got the Nintendo-64 flavoured demo ‘Big Things’, and our ears pricked up. And then, no magical sequel came. It was like JK Rowling had handed us ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’ only to wander off and become an accountant instead. We sighed to ourselves with resignation and moved on to pastures new. Fiction were the stuff of fairy tales, but there would be no happily ever after this time.

Skip forward three years, and things are looking altogether different. Taken under the capable wing of Moshi Moshi, Fiction have finally given us their debut, ‘The Big Other’, and the moment it crashes into life with slight 80s campness, the story picks up just about where we left off. Introverted vocals toy delicately with fluttering guitar lines on ‘Careful’ and straight afterwards ‘Museum’ fidgets and simpers like a dopey Labrador. So far this record is a strange but altogether likeable collision, slotting sunny noughties indie together with Spandau Ballet, in the maddest game of Tetris to grace our ears for a long time.

‘Big Things’ was genius the first time we heard it, and two years on, it’s still fresh strawberry-flavoured bubblegum that makes for a very satisfying pop. There’s not much depth to unearth, but really, who has time for being melancholy with melodies this delicious?

Unfortunately though, even the finest slab of Hubba Bubba is liable to lose its sweet taste after a while, and ‘The Big Other’ soon descends into a lump of indigestible rubbery nothingness. ‘Step Ahead’ is the ultimate moment of tedium, sounding like an amateur Ultravox cover. By the time we’ve endured “You’re one step ahead/I’m just one step behind” for about the 70th time, it’s like the blind date from hell. ‘See Me Walk’ welcomes in another melodramatic cliché riddled excuse for a chorus, and we’re just about ready to feign a toilet break before doing a runner.

Fiction clearly have an ear for melody, and by final track ‘The Apple’, they manage to partially redeem themselves with off-kilter tropical riffs and a first class yowling vocal performance. It shimmers and jitters with just the right level of flamboyancy. The issue is, though, that it all comes too late.

‘The Big Other’ is, it must be said, not a bad record; it just doesn’t leave you wanting more. Theatrical, over-blown, and just a little contrived, any promise of real substance sadly seems to fade after the first four tracks, and never quite returns. We were perhaps hoping to find substantial narrative here, but unfortunately this album is largely pulp fiction.