With a growing fan base and ever growing media exposure comes a pressure to deliver and with Build A tower they have done just that. From song one right through to the climatic tenth track it’s a glorious 36 minutes 55 seconds that will see them reach the top of the tower. Knowing this band though they’ll already be thinking of making their next record / tower – 200 storeys high this time.
Lunatic kicks off proceedings. Made for radio, made for a live show and made to be an opening track on an album that is going to elevate them to the next level – and deservedly so. The upbeat tempo of the song gets the listener hooked from the off. “Once again I’m drawn towards oblivion” sings Aaron – his vocals sounding better, if possible, than ever before. The rest of the band play like their lives depend on it as guitars and drums zig in and out of the fold at manic pace.
As Lunatic comes to a crashing end the military style drums lead us gently into Supernatural. It’s a funky, rhythmic, dance song which may surprise some but the masses will love it. Aaron pours his heart out “anxiety, my constant companion”, while the catchy bassline gets in your head with consummate ease.
Third track on the album and It’s You Opened Up My Heart. THAT opening hook gets you…hook, line and sinker. This is a band coming of age and songs like this are now the tunes that their fans demand. There are non-believers now becoming believers of this band. “Believe enough to lose control, where there’s love there’s always hope”….words that resonate through band, fans and new believers. Aaron’s deep, powerful vocal compliments the magical concoction of Jim’s infectious bass, Kurtis’ soaring guitars and Dave’s crashing drums to create the best yet. Although there’s better to come on this album.
Never Said I Was The Only One has a beautiful catchy undulating rhythm to it. This is a band playing with confidence in their ability. It’s a melancholic, reflective song that gently comes into fruition as the eight-legged groove machine show their ability, again, to produce a tear-jerker of a song. “I will always hold a baton for you” vows Aaron. The repetitive “Never Said I Was The Only One” gets in your mind and you can feel the emotion and the pain in the vocal. In a rousing finale the keyboard kicks in accompanied by a beautiful guitar solo. Not the fast, furious pace of some of the songs on this album but sure to be a favourite.
On The TV is the greatest Readers song yet. I hear a Foals-like introduction (not a bad thing). An emotionally charged Aaron tells us he’s riding “on a wave of sorrow” and pleads with his mother to “hold me...tell me I am safe”. It sounds like in times of uncertainty there’s a call for family, friends, loved ones, acquaintances and even enemies to pull together and forget all about the past. We should be astonished at the incredible vocal range on this song but this is Aaron Starkie and over the years those that knew, knew how could his voice was / is. Before U2 released their last album they had to go back in the studio and re-record and write new songs such was the change in the state of the world over the last few years. This is the song they should have wrote. It’s hard not to imagine a collective of bodies jumping about in unison at their live shows and don’t be surprised to hear it on the TV in the closing credits at this year’s World Cup when England painfully exit the tournament in a penalty shoot-out.
“Sorrow fills up your heart” is the battle cry as Through The Shadows passes the midway point of the album. This will get the hairs on the back of your neck raised and the haunting vocal accompanied by the clunky hammer blow of bass, guitar and drums add further weight to the song. This is an anthem that cries out for, dare I say it, an arena sized venue. “Silence, your friend and mine” is something that we can all relate to at some point in our lives. Get through the shadows, and the dust, and you’ll come out of it, hopefully, a better person. You only have to watch the video of the song at The Albert Hall, Manchester to realise what a massive impact this song has had on the masses already.
Lives Never Known takes us back to the old, familiar Slow Readers Club. Someone once described them as “doom electronica” in the dark, early days and from the start the electronic beat and Editors-like vocal set the tone. The song fluctuates between a stop-start sequence, peaking and troughing in a way that will cause chaos down the front at their live gigs. Bizarrely for me as the song powers up I feel the Cindy Lauper “Time After Time” tune in my head – “If you fall, I will catch you, I’ll be waiting, time after time…If you’re lost you can look and you will find me”’ said Cindy – we hear Aaron sing “”Now you’ve chosen a path, all those lives never known…and your life hasn’t gone how you thought it would go”.
Not Afraid Of The Dark is my least favourite track on the album although, to some, I’m sure it’ll be their favourite such is the quality of all the songs on this album. The intro has a chiming “The Music-like” guitar. “In the age of innocence, what a mess we’ve made” – Trump, May, me, you, Joe Bloggs – take your pick. Aaron’s voice reaches the pitches that you wouldn’t think possible as he shows off his extensive vocal range. As with most Readers songs it’s not long before the impressive trio of Jim, Kurtis and David combine to lift Aaron from the depths of the despair and elevate him to the heights of joy.
From one of my least favourite to one of my favourite tracks on the album – Lost In Your Gaze. A song about giving yourself away, giving everything to the cause only to see it all fade away. This could be Grace Of God Part 2. “You’ll never know my pain…to fall in deep was all too easy”. It’s a song that exposes that human frailty – emotion of mind, body and soul. Not just personal but universal. It’s a brave song with a lot of honesty and very personal lyrics. The drums beat harder as Aaron ups the ante – “you drift away from me, like some forgotten dream” he repeats, over and over, until Kurtis delivers that heavyweight punch of a guitar solo which will send the listener into orbit.
Now I’m not a fan of comparing bands to others although I am guilty of doing it on a regular basis. The fact that The Slow Readers Club are often compared to other bands though shouldn’t be taken as a slight but more of a compliment. However, with Distant Memory, they have produced a song unlike any other that a band has produced before. From an album full of despair, self-doubt and sorrow they end by telling us life is what you make it. Learn from your mistakes, move on and don’t look back…in anger. “Write a new story” says Aaron. “Open up for me, when did you get so fortified?” he asks. The first time I heard this song, headphones on, I shivered, I welled up and felt quite emotional. This is the attribute that only the special bands can create within a person. From the dark, gloomy clouds overhead a ray of sunshine filters through before the chaotic, thrashy guitar and pounding drums open up a deep blue sky where once there was a blocked out sun. This would be a perfect set closer on the tour as everyone will leave the gig feeling more optimistic about their own lives as well as the world we all live in. People’s lives change, band included, and it’s important to stay upbeat in the face of adversity. This song does just that and more.
Manchester….so much to answer for. The Slow Readers Club now carry the baton for this city. 3 albums in and you just know there’s more to come from these unassuming, humble, down-to-earth
lads. It’s been great, personally, to see a band evolve from Omerta (who I still love) to where they are today and I’m sure the band would admit they’re astonished, but they shouldn’t be surprised, with their snowballing success right now. I’m sure there have been dark times along the way but the foundations have now been laid to build a few more towers in the ever-changing landscape of their hometown city. For now….I, like so many others, just can’t wait to hear this record out on the road live.
Build A Tower is out on Friday on CD, cassette, cherry red vinyl and a limited edition marigold and black vinyl exclusive to their website. On the same day they also release a CD and vinyl version of their six song set recorded with Joe Duddell and a classical ensemble at Festival No 6 last September.
Read our first review of Build A Tower here.
The Build A Tower tour calls at the following venues : Manchester Cathedral (May 4), Liverpool Sound City Festival (5), Glasgow Stag And Dagger Festival (6), Newcastle Riverside (10), Hull Welly (11), Nottingham Rock City (12), Wolverhampton Slade Rooms (17), Norwich Arts Centre (18), Northwich Library (19), London Islington Assembly Hall (25), Stoke Sugarmill (26) and Kendal Calling (July 26-29).
Their official website can be found here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.