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The Slow Readers Club - The Joy of the Return (Album Review)

Thursday, 26 March 2020 Written by Graeme Marsh

Manchester’s Slow Readers Club have never quite reached the heights that their considerable potential might have propelled them to. One reason for that, perhaps, is that they’ve not yet managed to coin a killer signature tune.

Support slots with James and Catfish and the Bottlemen have ensured they’re well known in a particular indie niche, but their more obvious peers like the Courteeners have always been able to fall back on a classic go-to track, meaning they always get radio airtime and interest in new releases.

Their fourth album, ‘The Joy of the Return’, was written on the road, and the quartet used every spare minute to shape the new collection before recording was completed at Parr Street Studios, Liverpool, under the usual guidance of producer Phil Bulleyment.

It’s their first effort since 2018’s ‘Build A Tower’, an album that enjoyed a tempered response despite possessing the goods to have finally pushed the band over the top. 

Strikingly, almost every song on ‘The Joy of the Return’ ends around the three minute mark. Subsequently, there are tracks here that finish too soon and, inevitably, the continuous stream of similar lengths means little in the way of variation. Something Missing, one of many catchy, upbeat cuts, sounds great, with Bulleyment’s production providing a polished sheen evident throughout.

But, as the title suggests, there is something missing. The song’s truncated running time, as well as a bitty stop-start section, are the main culprits but it ultimately doesn’t have the X-Factor. Frustratingly, though, it comes agonisingly close to being an indie-pop gem. And that’s where virtually the entire album sits.

Single Killing Me boasts a more ominous edge to it, with a darker, dramatic presence keeping our interest before it’s over too quickly again. Problem Child is also not long enough, and annoyingly so because it’s another catchy as hell, atmospheric number with a great hook. If any track here could have been the one to catapult them forward it’s this one—its mid section is extremely reminiscent of Editors, and that’s not the only likeness to the Birmingham band here.

Opener All I Hear kicks the album off in a foot tapping manner that’s a little like the Bravery’s An Honest Mistake opening their 2005 eponymous debut. The first echo of Editors also appears here, through Aaron Starkie’s vocal style if not his tone. It’s a quality that resurfaces during Idols, which is also home to irritatingly trite lyrics that  delve into clichés like “mountain high through valley low” and “rhyme or reason”. The Wait also enters Editors territory for a stomping finale where a brooding bassline and shimmering guitars soar. Sadly, though, it’s cut short before liftoff yet again.

In fairness, although there aren’t any mountainous peaks, the consistent quality of ‘The Joy of the Return’ is very good, with no filler. Some tracks come within spitting distance of giving the group a breakthrough hit and when that does finally come, they shouldn’t be playing second fiddle to the likes of Catfish and the Bottlemen for much longer.

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