Complete Surrender (Caroline)
Result: 4.1 / 5.0
Back in 2007, Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson were in the process of establishing Slow Club as the quirky indie pop duo de jour, with their lo-fi stage set up of Taylor’s chair and snare drum (in lieu of a full drum kit) and Watson’s semi acoustic guitar bolstered by the pair’s tight harmonies and unfailing on stage charm. Fast forward seven years and there seems to have emerged a new Slow Club… a kind of ‘Slow Club 2.0’, if you will.
Complete Surrender is the band’s third album and sees them moving from their long time home of indie label Moshi Moshi to the newly resurrected major label off-shot Caroline records. Whether the move towards major label support has had anything to do with the marked change in Slow Club’s sound is speculation, but one can imagine the pressures of such an environment would be a persuasive source for a move towards a more accessible and commercial sound. And this is certainly what Complete Surrender yields.
‘Tears of Joy’, serves as a slow burning opener for the album but certainly immerses the listener firmly in the new territory the band are covering. The track was released a few months ago as a teaser for the album and it served as an unflinching statement of intent, setting the scene for the overriding 60s and 70s pop influences Slow Club have undoubtedly absorbed. Watson has said recently that the likes of Sam Cooke and The Supremes were an ever present force on their tour bus, and these influences have certainly translated into the new album. But that’s not to say the inherent charm Taylor and Watson so readily infuse into their music has been swallowed up by the sweeping strings and slick, rhythmic r’n’b infused beats on this record. Far from it. The title track, which sits as the centrepiece of the album, is resplendent in its James Bond grandiosity, the duo’s harmonies bolstering the melody and Taylor’s, especially, soaring over the track towards the dramatic orchestral crescendo. One of the most exciting aspects of Complete Surrender is the power of Taylor’s voice which can’t help but lift tracks like ‘Not Mine To Love’ and ‘The Queen’s Nose’ from straight forward, catchy pop up to anthemic status at a stroke.
Slow Club have always landed on the more cerebral side of lyricism and this is something that definitely hasn’t changed. The tales of love and loss loom large across tracks like ‘Number One’ and latest single ‘Suffering You, Suffering Me’, which are overshadowed by the spectres of past and deteriorating relationships, but the delivery is always strangely uplifting. Slow Club have captured the way listening to the blues can make you feel better about your situation because you feel an affinity with the words. Listening to much of Complete Surrender is like being taken out for a consolatory drink after a break up, and ending the night staggering home, singing shoulder to shoulder, with a new found best friend.
In Complete Surrender, Slow Club have created an album that has a towering pop verve, nearly unrecognisable from the band they were when they made their debut, but this isn’t a bad thing – it’s progress. In any case, the essence of what made Slow Club charming in the first place is still ever present behind the newly found confidence and epic wall of sound.