Slow Club – Complete Surrender Slow Club – Complete Surrender

 Slow Club - Complete Surrender

Slow Club – Complete Surrender

Slow Club seemingly enjoys challenging themselves to bound across musical plains. In the handful of EPs and full-lengths they’ve released since 2006 none have sounded like the one before or after it. There’s really no musical boundaries with Slow Club largely due to the band’s primary members, English duo Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor, both being multi-instrumentalists. Add to that their proclivity for experimentation and the fact that Rebecca can, and does, sing in several distinct registers, and what you have is a recipe for an ever-changing sound. The flip side of this coin is the inherent inconsistency that comes out of a musical project where a band refuses to identify themselves, and leaps genres not just from release to release but from track to track.

The slickness and snags that come with Slow Club being so multidimensional are no more evident than in their 3rd album Complete Surrender.

Complete Surrender is gentle, boisterous, powerful, hectic, simple, and deftly orchestrated. If all those superlatives seem in opposition to each other it’s because they are.  For all its successes Complete Surrender could be a textbook example of why the traditional LP format doesn’t make sense for every project.

The most memorable parts of the album are the lamenting torch songs like, “Dependable People And Things That I Am Sure Of” and “Number One” whose stripped-down quality breaks the listeners armor and draws them close. The earnest nature of these ballads highlights the accomplished songwriting skills of both Watson and Taylor that simply gets overwhelmed on the more dancy’ numbers. Rebecca brings out her vocal range when they slow things down and the added bass in her voice is so triumphant that faster tracks are comparatively vacuous in its absence. The secret to these songs is the use of space and pacing, which are handled with such subtlety that the 6 or so tracks off the album that fit the aforementioned mold could easily stand on their own; honestly I wish they did.

The other half of the album is split between dance music with an M83 style backing beat, and Golden Age style throwbacks dripping with soul. Generally speaking as the pace of these songs increases so does the amount of instrumentation brought into it. Tambourine, strings, synth, drum machine, it’s all there. The final product undoubtedly meets its goal of providing contrast, but the thought that heavy contrast was needed on this album is also precisely where it misses. I know the songs will be great to hear live and indeed they’re fun to listen to on the album, but Slow Club can be so much more than a band with fun songs. I’m not relegating Slow Club to a Townes Van Zandt type of career where each recording they make has to be more dire and emotional than the last, but there are some real similarities between these wildly different artists. Any time that Van Zandt brought in a full band and attempted to adorn his songs with all the country trappings of his time the end result was like a beautiful bride drowning underneath the weight of her dress. When Slow Club attempts the same the results aren’t dissimilar, the more crowded the song gets the less room the true talents of Watson and Taylor have to shine, and it’s that duo which makes this band unique and captivating. It’s not always the case but seemingly in music and life less is often more.

This is the tale of complex talents, it’s impossible to tell virtuosos to stop expanding. It’s human nature to get bored, it’s human nature to try new things, but every piece in its place. It’s evident that the duo are fighting against being categorized. There are tracks on Complete Surrender which I can only describe as magnificent. Released as two separate EPs I think I’d be playing one of them in repeat for years to come. Some of my favorite albums are high contrast but in general those same albums happen to be high concept. Perhaps it’s that I don’t understand the vision for the album as a whole, but that doesn’t detract from the individual parts. Slow Club once again has shown everyone they are singular talents. I look forward to the day when defining their sound, even if ever so briefly, doesn’t feel binding, but rather cathartic.

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