Friday, 25 July 2014

Live Review: Slow Club (BidoLito!)

The Kazimier
8th July 2014

Timing is important for a touring band. Got an established back catalogue and army of fans behind you? You can probably play whenever the fuck you want. Only got a handful of demos to your name? Go ahead and book dates at your leisure because lets be honest, no one gives a shit anyway. Days away from the release of your third album? You’re in no man’s land, as you attempt to establish the identity of your latest musical direction without alienating the fans that you’ve picked up along the way. This is especially true for a band like SLOW CLUB, whose sound and general aesthetic has evolved significantly over the course of three albums. Their debut effort Yeah, So? treaded tenuously around the notion of twee, with lyrics such as ‘Will you hold my hand when I go?’ delivered just sharply enough to uncover some human complexity behind their structural simplicity. The follow up, the excellent Paradise, expanded both in concept and in timbre, thrusting them into the echelons of the countries best indie pop songwriters and shaking off any perception that they are just a boy-girl duo singing about love and cupcakes and all the rest. With Complete Surrender and Suffering You, Suffering Me, Slow Club have implied a sense of nostalgia for album number three, exploring the forms and melodies of fifties pop songs in a way that’s more forward facing that we’ve seen from the band before.

MOATS are one of the best new bands in Liverpool right now, propping up the bill with some snarling guitar rousers reminiscent of early Liars. Guitar bands needs front men though, and Moats are blessed with a great one, balancing between the notions that he’s either a bit of a dickhead or he’s just fucking with us in a way that all the best rock stars do. Having just played Austin City Limits off the back of support from The NME, its impressive to see them continue to express what they’re about on stage with such conviction.

A poor sound technician kicks over a customized synth during sound check, rendering it all but useless, much like his resulting employability. We are very much being ‘road tested’ tonight, and it shows. The set-list is almost being made up on the spot, as Rebecca Lucy Taylor offers apologies for the ramshackle nature of the evening and of the performances around her. Vocally though, Taylor is typically brilliant, turning at times arbitrary lyrics like ‘The greatest book you ever read came from my favorites list’ (Beginners), or ‘I think that next summer if we’re still alive/we should try’ (If We’re Still Alive) into rousing statements, as these songs that can be delicate at heart are blithely turned into anthems.   

The glaring omission of any material from their first album is a head scratcher. I mean, their sound and confidence both as songwriters and performers has visibly grown in the years since its release, so it is understandable that they might want to distance themselves from it. This complete detachment though, especially in favour of so many new, unheard tunes, disconnects them from the audience in a way that turns the gig from a communal celebration into a show and tell, forcing the audience to try and make sense of these new tunes on the spot and in turn, losing that ‘in the moment’ feeling that we, as gig-goers, crave. There is little doubt that the new album will be a belter, which will continue to propel Slow Club’s stratospheric rise. Yet despite the special moments, like the heart-wrenching crack in Charles Watson’s voice during a solo performance of Horses Jumping, or the gorgeous harmonies during Never Look Back, tonight feels worryingly underprepared.

Mike Townsend


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