A passionate band whose musical goals are abundantly clear, they offer a positive message and a clenched fist in a difficult age
At the risk of stating the obvious, the coronavirus pandemic has shaped musical creativity over the last three years. Barely an album is released without an anecdote linking lockdown to limitations on composition, while many releases have focused on a new-found mindfulness or meditation. This is all well and good, but The Slow Readers Club have recognised the need to provide more physical energy, to give people more ‘get up and go’.
Lockdown harmed them as much as anyone, stopping fourth album The Joy Of The Return in its tracks and stopping any plans to tour. Unbowed by the setback, they have dusted themselves down, regrouped with The Courteeners’ producer Joe Cross and returned with an upbeat set of 10 far reaching songs.
Knowledge Freedom Power – a bold title – looks set to give positive stimulation to all who encounter it. There are some dystopian lyrics lurking in the background, but there is very little musical padding or window dressing. Rather, there is a commitment to electro-tinged songs that punch their weight, sitting at the junction of pop and rock while providing anthemic lyrics that stand up well to repeated listening.
As ever, a key element to their success is Aaron Starkie’s voice, projecting easily over the serrated bass lines and busy beats. In the strongest songs he offers both solace and recuperation. Lay Your Troubles On Me is particularly good, with circling guitars and lyrics that promise to “come lay your worry on me, we’ll fight the fear”.
The convincing chorus is typical of many on the album. What Might Have Been is cut from similar cloth, starting in thrall to Foals but opening out into a heartfelt declaration, Starkie singing “I need your love” as the melody carries easily over the musical skyline.
Modernise begins the album as a call to arms, a torch song that might be made for the likes of you and I. “It’s time to modernise, you’ve got to up your game, there’s a world of prying eyes”, he sings, though the song also suggests the expectations of life could be taking their toll. “Get a job, find a girl, hurry up, don’t be late, pressure’s on to be strong, must be first out the gate”.
The band’s sound is consistently strong, with pumped up disco drums laying a strong foundation for a lean musical fight. Earlier Depeche Mode, The Killers and White Lies are all credible reference points, but The Slow Readers Club have their own recognisable identity, their songs carrying far and wide.
The band do operate at a similar tempo and register throughout, so while the songs are good and durable they would sound even better in a structure with a bit more variety. That said, with songs like Sacred Song, it is difficult to argue with their message or contest the uplifting effect their songs leave on the listener.
Established fans will not be disappointed, though, with a strong showing from a passionate band whose musical goals are abundantly clear. They offer a positive message, a clenched fist in a difficult age, and deliver their songs in a voice understanding the issues of the day and the problems we all face. Knowledge Freedom Power deserves to do well.