Album Reviews

Charles Watson – Yes

(Moshi Moshi) UK release date: 29 April 2022

Slow Club co-founder’s pep talk for the weary of heart is a reassuring balm for the bruised soul

Charles Watson - Yes When Sheffield’s hardy indie perennials Slow Club split up in 2017, the two main members seemed to take very different career paths. Rebecca Taylor became the big bright pop star she’d always dreamed of being, and as Self Esteem, has released two albums full of feminist disco-pop anthems, gathering critical acclaim and a fiercely loyal army of support wherever she goes.

Slow Club’s other half, Charles Watson, has taken a more low-key approach to his solo career. His debut album, Now That I’m A River was released just six months after Slow Club’s final gig and as such, it seemed a bit of an epilogue to his former band, rather than a new beginning.

Four years on though, and Yes feels like a fresh start for Watson. Not that it’s particularly radically different from his previous work, but there’s a brightness and freshness emanating from each track. Watson and his long term collaborator David Glover have settled on an unobtrusive, stripped-back approach – now and again a choir of backing vocalists (including Rozi Plain and Katy Beth Young and Rosa Slade of Peggy Sue) seem to rise up around Watson, and the effect is gorgeous.

Opening track Figure Skater (apparently inspired by a half-speed version of Dolly Parton‘s Jolene) sets the scene pretty well – a languid, mid-tempo number punctuated by slide guitar, reminiscent of Watson’s project with The Wave Pictures, Surfing Magazines. When the aforementioned choir of backing singers appear, it seems to lift the track up to a different level. Afghan Hound, released as a single last year, is a beautifully simple little ballad that sounds like it could belong on one of Neil Young‘s mid-’70s albums.

Much of Yes is rooted in that classic singer-songwriter mode – there are no gimmicks or fancy studio tricks needed. Yet none of this is really needed when Watson’s songs are so beautifully simple. His lyrics focus on the beauty of the everyday, whether that be I Was Sent Here To Love You talk of swaying palm trees and blissful happiness, or the closing People Run Towards People uplifting affirmation of friendship and companionship.

That lovely closing track seems to encapsulate what much of Yes seems to be about – almost a pep talk for the weary of heart, a reassuring reminder that it’ll all be alright. There may be no huge surprises on Charles Watson’s second solo album, and some may even deem it to be too unobtrusive to make much of a mark – but anyone who still pines for Slow Club, or just wants to luxuriate in some expertly crafted songs, Yes will feel like some balm for the bruised soul.

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Charles Watson – Yes
Charles Watson – Now That I’m A River