released 12 September 2011 on Moshi Moshi
Is there a band who looked more likely to succumb to “second album syndrome” than Slow Club? Their first LP, Yeah So, was a delight, but it was full of the whimsical, innocent ideas of artists making their debut album, not yet jaded by the trials and tribulations of this business we call show. Yeah So whizzed along like it was powered by sherbert; even on the quieter and more reflective moments, it still felt like Slow Club were on the verge of a technicolour outburst.
But we all get older, reality sets in and we can’t stay naive forever – Yeah So Mk II was never an option. As a fan of the band, I was actually apprehensive about the release of Paradise, full of concern that they’d fail like so many had before them.
Such misgivings lasted about thirty seconds, which is roughly the time it takes for the phenomenal chorus of opening track, Two Cousins, to make an appearance. It’s a riotous stomp of a song that also feels like a significant step forward for the band. There’s an addictive guitar line, huge drums and wondrous vocals, not to mention the fact that it’s a perfect example of the happy melody/sad lyrics pop template (“I look into your eyes / But you don’t know who I am”). Two Cousins’ potency isn’t diminished by repeat plays – it really is one of the singles of 2011.
And from there, Paradise continues to go from strength to strength. With the help of producer Luke Smith (formerly of Clor), Slow Club have somehow sidestepped the potential pitfalls and have made a record which shows ambition and adventure while still possessing the hallmarks which made them such a joy before.
The real revelation of Paradise is the vocal talents of Rebecca Taylor. If Yeah So showed she was blessed with a sweet, charming voice, Paradise is where she takes it up a gear and displays her full, powerful range. It’s this which transforms tracks like Never Look Back from a ballad that’s merely good into an experience, where the song travels more distance than its four and a half minutes runtime would have you believe.
The growth of Slow Club is most evident on Beginners, with its jangly reverb and cinematic feel. Where this may have been a simple, folky number before, it now has carefully hewn melodies and backing vocals which have been crafted in support of the song. Fittingly, it also appears to be about the passing of time (“Oh, to be older”), and there’s a real emotional weight to the lyrics. Horses Jumping is also a highlight, with subtle time changes, beautiful finger-picking and yet more marvellous production framing the track.
This isn’t all meant to sound like Slow Club have forgotten how to do fun. Current single, Where I’m Waking, is probably the most immediate and danceable track they’ve ever written. Beginning with vocals echoing a catchy guitar riff, it builds throughout before ending with a celebratory cacophony of instruments. Deceptively simple drumming propels The Dog along, making it a beat-you-around-the-face song with a boisterous, singalong chorus.
Any semblance of nervousness now seems foolish. It’s difficult to imagine how, after Yeah So, Slow Club could have made a better second album. They’ve deftly struck the balance between breaking new ground and retaining their sound while making a record that has – bold statement alert – NO bad songs on it. Luckily for us, Paradise suggests that Slow Club are in it for the long haul.