Album review: The Slow Readers Club – The Joy Of The Return
PUBLISHED: 10:47 01 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:47 01 April 2020
The indie Mancunians’ latest is a solid collection of gloomy ruminations, pepped up with pop nous and an energising pace.
Another dose of doom and gloom is perhaps not what the nation needs right now. But in fairness Manchester four-piece The Slow Readers Club weren’t to know that we’d be staring down the barrel of a summer spent indoors when they were developing their fourth album at soundchecks and back-of-the-van jams last year.
The dark power-pop they have become known for still holds sway here, but it’s leavened with a new breadth of soundscape and musical, if not lyrical, light.
All I Hear, the lead single, kicks off the record with a pacy blast of gritted-teeth frustration, a chant-along title dressed in needly guitars weaving the first of several heavy blankets.
Eloquent singer Aaron Starkie says the song’s “about a lack of agency and an inability to affect change”, and vexation at the status quo rears its head several times across these 11 tracks.
Starkie’s stern, earnest voice and the band’s extensive use of wiry guitar and synth soundbeds is reminiscent of Editors’ brutalist bleakness, but its bright pop heart keeps the atmosphere buoyant almost to spite the subject matter.
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Killing Me, which switches from grandiose drum-and-guitar battery to gently rolling verses of synths, hi-hat and Jelly Babies-sweet guitar noodles, soundtracks Starkie’s drawn-out vowels bemoaning the drudgery and injustices of modern-day adult life.
It sets up further doses of visceral, dystopian lyricism and choreographed drama in No Surprises and the unsettling heartbreak narrative of Paris.
“It doesn’t do to drink alone too long”, Starkie reflects portentously in Every Word, “Let’s all say a prayer for the citizen”.
That the record doesn’t collapse under the weight of its own pessimism is testament to the band’s use of simple pop melodies and a cantering tempo, all fed through a deceptively lean-sounding, ‘80s-inspired arrangement of guitar, synths and drums.
While the joy of the return – to the live arena, at least – has been denied to this and hundreds of other bands for the time being (their gig at Camden’s Electric Ballroom this Friday has been postponed indefinitely), the record itself can thumb its nose at the lockdown.
With only a couple of exceptions, this is a solid collection of gloomy ruminations, pepped up with pop nous and an energising pace.
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