It’s been a busy decade for Manchester crew The Slow Readers Club. With three albums within nine years, several support act shows, festival bookings (such as a well-received set at Isle of Wight Festival), shows in the UK, Ireland, and Italy, and their third album reaching no.18 in the charts. What makes this all even more amazing is that The Slow Readers Club only quit their day jobs in 2018 when they were signed to Modern Sky, and relying on word of mouth, they’ve been able to perform sell-out gigs at Dublin’s famous The Workman’s Club. With their new album The Joy of the Return out now, it is little wonder why they’re going from strength to strength.
The opening track, ‘All I Hear’, nails the tone and style of the whole album – an allegro moderato tempo with a guitar, synth, and drum arrangement. The lyrics sound more akin to electro-pop than to an alt-rock band, but it works – like early Gary Numan. The product is a track that has depth, but with a coolness to it. The bouncy tempo contrasts nicely with the arrangement and bittersweet lyrics, giving it soul and body.
Similar is heard in ‘Problem Child’ and ‘Jericho’ – a lush, deep, and fresh arrangement to an upbeat tempo. I don’t mean that the album repeats itself, or that the tracks blur into one long song – there is enough mix up in harmony to make the tracks stand out, but also feel like part of the same album.
They don’t smother the arrangement with just a guitar, baseline, or synth until all harmony is lost. Instead of something sound stripped down, it sounds fully developed – something that is usually ignored in favour of the nuts and bolts style of modern alt-rock. It provides a more vibrant sound, blending the arrangement and making it work as opposed to forcing them; working with contrasts between rhythm and tempo to create something fresh and new.
One thing that can’t escape you when you listen is that you can hear the long line of the Manchester scene legacy in their music. Like so many Factory Records and Madchester bands have been distilled into one group – Joy Division via The Stone Roses, with a dash of Happy Mondays on top. It’s not that The Slow Readers Club don’t sound original – they do. But their music is the product of a scene legacy.
I’m going to be honest – I really enjoyed this album. It has the slower tempos and rhythms to the music that I usually like, but it is nowhere near as toe-tapping or mosh-inducing than my usual taste. But its style comes alive, and if it can get through to a bitter husk like me, then it must be worth your time.