Sunday, 13 November 2011

Slow Club @ The Audio, Brighton, 29.09.11

Slow Club live

Photography: Holly Jarvis

So, Slow Club bring out the shinies. The Audio is packed with sleek-limbed gleaming girls, girls like horses, with plenty of hair and confidence in spades. There are dozens about the place, solid, happy, loud. I’m just wondering where these fantastic beings have sprung from when the band trot on and there’s Rebecca, quite clearly one of the same breed. She’s got the gob and the mane and a T-shirt which declares Rotherham to be the new Berlin. I’m not arguing.

“Hiya!” she trills and they’re off at a gallop, straight into recent single ‘Where I’m Waking’, the one with the thunderous drums and the ear-worm chorus: “You got the brains, I got the body!” It’s magnificent. Throughout the set (throughout the whole of the new album Paradise, in fact) it’s the ones with the double dose of drums that do it for me. The pounding, frenetic pop numbers as opposed to the soft rock crooners, however stadium they make ‘em. I mean, apart from anything else, a girl standing up behind a drumkit, thwacking away furiously at her floor tom as if it had called her a lady and opened a door for her, that’s always going to set hearts a-flutter, no?

‘Beginners’ has a similar big pop pow! to it, wields its almighty bass strums just so and leaves us reverberating. ‘The Dog’ employs the same trick (it’s a one trick dog but oh, what a trick): it’s chock full of brilliant bouncy moments and ends by motoring triumphantly into an anthemic Arcade Fire-alike sing-a-long finish. Stick to that exclamatory formula and new-look Slow Club can’t fail: fuck the acoustic guitars and bring on the noise! The new album’s pounders might be structurally of an ilk with the older ones but they are clearly far more polished, rounded, beefed-up with a whole cow’s worth of extra sound: they play (to huge audience appreciation) ‘Our Most Brilliant Friends’ from 2009’s Yeah, So; it’s just as marvellously shouty as ‘The Dog’ and has the same kind of loveably excitable chorus, but where it used to be shouty-spiky, rough round the edges, now it’s sanded to silk.

And Rebecca’s voice? I’m sure it used to break and strain, show up the wobbles and the cracks. While the fact that she now swoops effortlessly across the rolling tunes of the slower numbers might be impressive, even drop-dead luscious, part of me mourns the loss of the scrappy girl who sang like life had given her grazed knees.

This sea change is most obvious on Charles and Rebecca’s rendition of ‘Come On Youth’: the band sits it out while the two of them sing it as a stripped-down skinny thing, even slighter - if softer - than the recorded version’s wonky country & western incarnation, whose lines tumbled over themselves in breathy exhortation and proved irresistibly catchy. It feels almost a shame to lose the scuff.

I’m sticking with ‘ambivalent’ for the non-Drum Ones, the power-pop ballads: they’re too goddamn smooth for my tastes. I’m just never going to love the streamlined swoons of ‘Never Look Back’, for example: they conjure bad things, like Wings or Bryan Adams, and I’m not ready to forgive those yet. Sorry, Youth, you’ll have to go on without me there.
Of course, the definitive Slow Club thing is the fabulous boy/girl-vocals; Charles complains tonight that a reviewer pronounced their Rebecca-less numbers “boring” and then proceeds to lead in a quiet little song that never quite stomps and whinnies as it might. If it had had Rebecca on it ... Sorry, but it’s true: I want them both belting out the tunes in different tones of the same glorious substance, to make something dappled, gendered, fierce, sweet. Like, ah, Battenberg. Perhaps.

I know, I know, it’s not exactly fair: Rebecca on stage is a force of nature, cascades of blonde hair and feist beyond Feist. I don’t think anyone – let alone beardy men – would stand a chance with girls like that around.

Good thing too, I’d say.

(A version of this review was first published by thegirlsare and this version was originally published on Collapse Board.)

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