The Sheffield pair add soul, strings and brass for a shot at the big time
Coming on like Sheffield’s very own two-person take on The Commitments, Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor’s third album sees them loading up the big soul guns for a shot at the mainstream. On their first LP away from indie Moshi Moshi, Slow Club are now packing a string section and perky brass army, some heavy heartache and, in Colin Elliot, a producer that made his name working with the North’s king of sweeping orchestral sound and greaser-blues, Richard Hawley.
It’s a tack that brings with it varying degrees of success. There’s still no denying the serious vocal chops of Taylor, who can belt out a doe-eyed ballad with all the genuine sentiment of a pre-teen at a kitten factory, but there’s something naggingly hammy about the brash ‘Suffering You, Suffering Me’. Its festive jangles and brass parps are more 1980s photocopy Lisa Stansfield than 1960s original Dusty Springfield and ‘Not Mine To Love’ is essentially a labored show tune from an amateur dramatics production about the life of Amy Winehouse.
Yet when the duo steer away from blue-eyed soul cliché and start entwining their charismatic vocals, ‘Complete Surrender’ starts to really impress. Over pensive piano Rebecca’s hushed vocals support Charles’ falsetto on ‘Number One’ – as tortured as pop comes, its beauty is in its simplicity and the pair’s seamless melodic meshing. With an end-of-the-pier synth whirling away in the background, ‘The Pieces’ emulates the poppier edges of former labelmates Metronomy’s found-object funk and the title track is saturated with deviant disco menace, like an evil ABBA. ‘Dependable People And The Things That I’m Sure Of’ then sees Rebecca woozily emoting over soft, shuffling drums and the faintest hint of violins. “I had my family/and I had my friends/but oh how I wanted to be with him again,” she sighs, lamenting a “shitty year”. For all the flash and flair, the freshest, most intimate moments here are the result of holding back.