Soundtrack of my week: The Slow Readers Club

Music writer Joe Millward shares what he's been listening to this week.

Joe Millward
2nd October 2021
Credit: The Slow Readers Club via Facebook

This week was always going to be a big one, and big tunes are the only way to fill the void of uncertainty that comes with returning to university.

To help me in this transition, I enlisted my favourite of the followers of the big beat manifesto, The Slow Readers Club. I must admit that familiarity is a part of why they suit this tumultuous time, but hopefully I can convince you that they are worthy even without that prop.

My opening argument has to be the anthemic lyric work. No matter what a song is about, the scale is astronomic - a one sided relationship becomes an eternal cat and mouse game played in the shadows of the capitalist machine (‘Feet on Fire’).

Mourning eclipses all in ‘Block Out the Sun’, rendering the entire world bleak and hollow, and a messy break explodes into a senseless war in ‘All hope, All faith’.

Sure - maybe I'm (almost definitely) projecting my experiences onto these songs, but that is what makes lyrics powerful. Why should we not cast them as reminders of better and worse times, reminding us that time marches inadvertently on? It's exactly this cosmic (and pretentious) (I'm self aware) (so I can keep being pretentious) mindset the lyrics put you in, and while that overwhelming scale appears to dwarf the listener, in truth they are simply reinstating the immeasurable impact our life experiences had at the time. This makes every song hit that much harder.

All that is to say the lyrics are pretty good for a determined sprint for a late essay, or when it feels everything you hold dear is crumbling about your ears (usually both at once).

These lyrics are mixed perfectly with deep and ominous electro, which comes together best on the following tracks. ‘Fool for your Philosophy’ amplifies the escape from toxicity into some epochal journey, distilled into 3 minutes and 27 seconds. The beautiful ‘I saw a ghost’ shines that light at the end of the tunnel back whence you came, illuminating the climb from rock-bottom. These are the best spots to start, both in the most popular album, Cavalcade.

From a technical perspective (or my extremely uneducated ear and propensity to blag it), Slow Readers songs are always a strong electric beat forming an anthem with grandiose lyrics, but the technical skill is always demonstrated best in the middle 8. Prime examples include ‘Feet on Fire’, ‘Yet Again’, and ‘Frozen’ (not a Disney cover sadly).

In each the momentous scale and pacing are all channelled into a faster refracted rhythm that inevitably leads to many “one more time!” moments.

The other reason Slow Readers are once more embedded in my playlist is that I finally, after 2 long years of delay, had the pleasure of seeing them live. Going into the gig I was surprised to see the core fanbase was older than I'd expected, which reminded me that the band themselves are no spring chickens, they have been touring for a long time - half the members were playing live as Omerta way back in 2004. This is shown by their performance; to call it polished would be an understatement, and precise would suggest a lack of personality. As the group stepped up to the stage, their aim was immediately clear: permeate every brick with that massive, almost orchestral electro sound. I have tried to impress how the lyrics are easy for anyone to relate to, and it is because of that songwriting talent that it immediately felt as though the entire venue became one, no longer feeling quite so alone on our (indie) rock.

The Slow Readers Club are currently on tour, and are playing Gateshead on the 2nd October; for other tour dates, see here.

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