In the three years since Manchester’s The Slow Readers Club released their second album, they have exploded in popularity, particularly in their hometown. If Cavalcade lit the touch paper on their ascent, this third effort could well be the glittery explosion that lights up the sky and makes the rest of the country sit up and take notice.
Opening the album is Lunatic, which has been around for quite a while and already a live favourite with fans. It’s also the track that has opened up to more daytime radio airplay. It’s a neat bridging song for the previous albums to Build a Tower (and wins the ‘sing the record’s title’ award), as the following nine tracks take the band on an ever so slightly different path to which they’ve trod before.
Fans need not worry, though, it’s not a diversion that they should dread, as Supernatural proves. With a demonly catchy guitar refrain and groovy bassline, it’s instantly memorable and will have audiences singing along emphatically.
Another cracking if haunting guitar riff opens You Opened Up My Heart, the band’s latest single and, like Lunatic, has infiltrated the hitherto elusive daytime playlists with ease. Never Said I Was the Only One, on the other hand, is a strange beast. A melancholic yet perfectly accessible and, dare we say, still danceable tune as it builds to a triumphant crescendo.
On the TV is another song of contrasting elements. It’s an upbeat, easy to singalong to track that features some incredibly downbeat lyrics about the state of the world around us but also celebrates the need of the closeness of family to keep us safe and grounded. It’s what the band seems to be doing so well right now: making us able to dance to the end of the world.
Those lyrics continue with Through the Shadows, which is complemented by a haunting keyboard pattern that brings to mind the likes of Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter. It picks up the pace for the chorus and later verses, but nothing matches that spine-tingling opening fifty seconds.
The poetic pessimism in the lyrics continues with Lives Never Known, which once again comes at odds with the upbeat music. There’s a fantastically thunderous bassline from Jim Ryan throughout to underpin the predominantly electronica backing.
Kurtis Starkie’s guitar work is front and centre once more in Not Afraid of the Dark, but they don’t overpower the fabulously hypnotic bass and thunderous drumming from Dave Whitworth that come together for a bombastic chorus. The mournful and straightforward guitar solo ending the tune is a pleasant surprise, as is Lost in Your Gaze, with Whitworth’s drum pattern leading us into a mesmerising blend of doom-laden lyrics and soaring instrumentation.
Another stunning bassline opens Distant Memory, arguably the most accomplished and certainly the best track on the album. A perfect storm of melody, singalong lyrics and anthemic conclusion make it also the natural closer for the record.
What’s clear from the album is the band are as tight as ever as musicians, and along with Aaron Starkie’s emotional and often painful lyrics, provide a great distraction from the homogenised soulless tripe peddled by the ‘big boys’. Not so far removed from what the fans have become accustomed to, but thanks in part to the polished production from Phil Bulleyment, it could well have the power to propel them to the next natural level. The band has been around long enough to have earned their stripes and, while their live shows keep getting bigger, it would be good to see that breakthrough happen on a larger scale.
Whether the masses are ready for the contradiction of downbeat lyrics and insanely danceable tunes remains to be seen. Close your eyes, open up your ears, free your mind and discover something new. It’ll feel good, honest.
The Slow Readers Club’s Build a Tower is released on May 4th. You can pre-order the album here. Catch the band on tour: Cardiff The Globe – April 26th, Southampton Engine Rooms – April 27th, Leeds Brudenell Social Club – Apr 28th (sold out), Manchester Cathedral – May 4th (sold out), Liverpool Sound City Festival – May 5th, Glasgow Stag and Dagger Festival- May 6th, Newcastle The Riverside – May 10th, Hull the Welly – May 11th, Nottingham Rock City – May 12th, Wolverhampton The Slade Rooms – May 17th, Norwich Arts Centre – May 18th, Northwich Library – May 19th (sold out), London Islington Assembly Hall – May 25th, Stoke Sugarmill – May 26th, and Kendal Calling Festival – July 28th.