Birmingham’s Jaws have been lumped in with the B-Town “scene”, a conceit designed to cope with the fact that there are some bands from Birmingham. Being saddled with a scene does Jaws no favours whatsoever, but Be Slowly has enough quality to ensure that they exist well outside such parochial bubbles. They’re more than capable of standing on their own terms.
Perhaps the first thing that is evident about Jaws is that for a band that shares its name with a toothy seaside predator or a toothy Bond villain, they actually lack real bite. Not that this is a particular problem; in fact, their soft focus indie pop benefits from the languid, laidback dreamy approach. Don’t expect any sudden, serrated attacks because Jaws’ approach is predominantly about mining the best moments of late ’80s and early 90s indie pop and creating gloriously hazy danceable songs.
Opening track Time quickly establishes the band’s intent. A wiry guitar and a taut rhythm section establish a buttoned down funk inflected start to proceedings. It’s easy to see how comparisons to Foals have been made from the opening 30 seconds alone and the tight picking of Think Too Much, Feel Too Little bears some resemblance too, but in truth, there’s very little connecting the two. At the other end of the spectrum are Connor Schofield’s dreamy, reverb soaked vocals, which sound as if he’s possibly singing them whilst in the recovery position. Before long, his spaced out approach has infected the entire band and the guitars abandon the precision new-wave picking and open out into something far more spectral.
The likes of Cameron and Gold embrace shimmering pop vibes that manage to replicate the warmth of the most glorious summer days. When Schofield sings “take me to where the gold drips from the sun on to my back” he’s imploring his band to become sonic travel agents, and their overlapping guitars carefully creating gently breaking waves, they do just that. Where Gold looks forward to actually getting out there and reveling in the sunshine, Sunset State’s tale of relationship meltdown flips the coin and provides a somewhat less than optimistic view. That it still manages to sound heavenly is down to the band’s ability to create opiate clouds of glorious riffs.
If this all sounds like an album that really should have taken advantage of a release prior to the summer, then the likes of Home find the band creating slightly darker atmospheres. There are still transcendent moments hidden away, but taking its lead from Stone Roses’ baggy inner-city manifesto, it is a tune that creeps with a vague sense of threat wrapped up in a pill-softened swagger. Schofield’s vocals occasionally bear an uncanny resemblance to Ian Brown (when Ian Brown was still capable of at least sounding vaguely like he was singing) particularly on the likes of Filth, whereas the title track looks back to shoegaze and whilst putting a dense filter over the band’s influences, which on the basis of this song alone encompass The Smiths, Ride and Dinosaur Jr.
If the album is about anything, it’s about escaping. Casting off B-Town and heading off anywhere but preferably somewhere mellow and sunny. It’s a theme that runs through Gold, and the ’80s inflections of Swim, but nowhere is it more evident than on the emotive closing track NYE which finds Schofield assessing his surroundings and life before begging “take me far, far, away”. Naturally his band steps up and creates an immersive and joyful swell to sweep him away.
Admittedly Be Slowly is slightly in thrall to its influences, but this is in truth a minor niggle. Jaws have created an album that should see them breaking away from B-Town, heading for sunnier climes and finding themselves. What happens next should be interesting; Jaws 2 wasn’t all that bad after all.