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Slow Club - Complete Surrender

"Complete Surrender"

Release date: 14 July 2014
8.5/10
Slow club complete surrender
09 July 2014, 09:30 Written by Laurence Day
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One of Britain’s most revered folk-rock outfits, Sheffield’s Slow Club were always going to have spotlights trained on them the second they emerged from their hideaway. Three years have passed since 2011’s Paradise, a record that was notably advanced from their 2009 debut, titled Yeah So with the biggest bratty sneer any 13-year-old can muster (NME even described it as "snot-folk").

It wasn’t exactly phlegm-hacking punk that they began with, but the tongue-firmly-in-cheek gags, sprightly bombast, and lack of po-faced pastoral seriousness implied a different kind of folk than we were used to back in t’ day. Paradise shuffled off that tone (drawing comparisons to a wealth of talents, including the likes of Elliot Smith), diving into more mature territories via myriad genre-flits, deeper themes and a more careful crafting of compositions. They’d made a stark claim with both records, and they’d demonstrated both a sonic wanderlust and penchant for experiments. Of course, any follow up was sure to shatter any preconceptions as well. We had to expect the unexpected.

For the duo’s third full-length effort, named Complete Surrender, they’ve triple-jumped forwards in evolutionary terms – even more so than Paradise‘s lurch. Like scheming smaller siblings skipping to Mayfair while you’re not looking, Slow Club have suddenly appeared in an entirely different arena. Instead of rumbling near the Wye Oaks and the Sharon Van Ettens, the pair shimmy between Duffy and Jungle and Fleetwood Mac.

Take “Suffering You, Suffering Me”, for example – it bangs tambourines, sees Rebecca Taylor belt to the rafters like a proto-Amy Winehouse, a Peggy Lee or a Nancy Sinatra, and smooshes brass and strings together. There’s a faded-vignette quality to the track in the doo-wop rhythm and Taylor’s soulful delivery; no longer are they snot-folk, that’s for darned sure. Nor are they folk in any sense, really. This is indie-pop glitter, dressed in flares with a beehive tacked on; an enormous Dusty Springfield-type stomper with Top 40 panache.

“Tears Of Joy” is a little more contemporary, with Charles Watson’s falsetto resting calmly above Sean Nicholas Savage-like synths. There are funk-lite riffs too, bringing it in line with the rest of the record, but it’s less jarring that “Suffering You…”‘s directional change. Title track and big single “Complete Surrender” slithers into darkness, the organs implying hazards, and Taylor’s horrified yelps of “Can’t help but, can’t help but, can’t help but hide it from you…” being especially macabre. It’s the kind of hypnotic velveteen femme fatale track that’s equal parts alluring, bewitching and everyone-dies-at-the-end (what is this, Hamlet?) dark.

We’ve always known that pop was a major weapon in Slow Club’s arsenal. From “Giving Up On Love” to “The Dog”, weaving hook-slathered melodies, duelling-gender harmonies and springy percussion has been the constant in the pair’s everchanging musical identity; whatever happened, they could make us dance and sing along. That intrinsic element is retained on Complete Surrender. As per usual however, the route has morphed, and the newfound 60s/70s-chic visage is what Slow Club proffer. It’s a drastic metamorphosis, that’s for sure, and whether you’re itching to flash a thumbs-up or gurning like you’ve snaffled a whole lemon, it’s impossible to deny their talent for pop deliciousness.

Slow Club have got an overarching tone on Complete Surrender that works splendidly. They teeter between the shades of light and dark, veering off to the outskirts of this new plane of sound to see how far they can go – for example, “Everything Is New” wields a bloody gospel choir… did you ever think you’d hear the likes of that when spinning Yeah So for the first time? Regardless of where they make brief sojourns to, they always return to a cohesive, powerful core pop tenet, attending to both the dancefloor-bait and emotionally-charged camps. Slow Club are grander than ever, shimmering like disco balls, toting an LP that’ll break them into mainstream darlinghood; by the sounds of this bolshy confidence and tune-garlanded melange, they’re not only ready, but expecting it.

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