, September 8th, 2011 13:17
Slow Club's debut Yeah So, epitomised the purgatory of near adulthood, those years of fumbled petting and 20-20, of developing yourself but, perhaps, never being taken quite seriously. That record marked a band who had a runaway bundle of folk-pop excitement with the future on its side and an identity to carve.
But on from Yeah So, Slow Club are discarding their youthfulness: no more bum fluff and whimsy for Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor, for they seem to have sex on their minds in the form of the obtuse desire of Bunny Monroe and the sultry persuasion of Jessica Rabbit. It's in the lyrics - on 'Where I'm Waking' Taylor croons: "I can see you looking at me, you got the brains I've got the body" – and in the music too. There's a hint of Lynch in the saucy undertow and disjointed sparseness. The vocals, meanwhile, are haunting and distant. Contrasted with the drums it feels is if the whole could easily disintegrate into a seedy buxom fantasy, as the cover by those former Arab Strap men suggested.
What projects Paradise as such a different affair from the debut is the maturity in their voices. Slow Club duets always celebrate closely balanced harmonies but Watson now exudes a masculine vibrato, as heard on 'The Dog', and Taylor resembles a sugar-coated Janis Joplin. On the Watson-led 'Never Look Back' a tremolo guitar kicks in before Taylor's howling voice rapturously explodes as though she has all the blues, and has them real bad. Furthermore on 'Hackney Marsh' she ranges from the delicate to operatic, while 'Beginners' starts with a Frostrup seduce before dancing through the octaves.
The record's liveliest moments, 'Where I'm Waiting', 'Still Alive' and 'The Dog,' retain Slow Club's penchant for thunderous drums and frantic guitars. Rattling snares and storming toms are their signature, but it's during 'Beginners' where the development since Slow Club's debut comes to the fore, mixing as it does a Motown leaning vocal and slightly Celtic rhythm meander through a soundscape of tinkling harps and guitar overdubs, giving it buoyancy and vigour.
Production wise, Luke Smith, of the much-missed Clor, has given Slow Club added depth from behind the desk. This confidence to explore ideas has resulted in 'Horses Jumping', a gently epic six minute affair complete with strings and closing time piano. It's Sufjan-esque in its pace, with a subtle time change showcasing guitar playing straight from an old time boxcar.
Overall, there's been a shift away from a friends and fun attitude for a darker, deathlier view of the world. 'Never Look Back's' slow blues tell of a brother who wasn't there. Clouds gather as Taylor sings: “I can only be your canvas” and “I'm exhausted” on the melancholic bar room gospel of 'You Earth or Ash'. It's a great contrast to all the sauce, and Slow Club's achievement is in retaining their folk-pop charm while copping off next to a barrel of moonshine. The voices are huskier, the music juicer, the innocence of yore starting to chip away as Paradise sees them explore the dark side of vice and life. They're are all the better for it.