Back in March, I reviewed the fourth studio album by The Slow Readers Club The Joy of the Return. I hardly expected, seven months later, to be reviewing a follow-up but then we’ve had a pandemic to deal with and lockdown to contend with. On Friday, October 23rd the Manchester band self-release 91 Days in Isolation via their own SRC Records which was written all by the band working from home remotely.
Throughout the whole of the lockdown, The Slow Readers Club managed to come up with different ways to stay connected to their fans. This included ‘watch together’ sessions of previous shows and exclusive lockdown videos (including fan-selected cover songs). There was also a memorable acoustic session in Manchester Arena to celebrate the venue’s 25th-anniversary celebrations (surrounded by 21,000 vacant seats). They have also been the first band to announce a new album during a ticketed, live-streamed concert. They performed a set recently at The Met in Bury containing exclusive performances and songs from the new album.
Aaron Starkie, lead singer says of the writing process: “This collection of songs was written remotely during the UK Covid 19 lockdown. With each band member sharing ideas over the internet, the songs were pieced together at home. When the lockdown lifted we took the songs to Edwin Street Recording Studios in Bury and recorded this album with our producer Phil Bulleyment. We are proud to present 91 Days in Isolation”.
91 Days starts with Barricades, an insistent beat with incensed lyrics. ‘Profit and pain, come join the dance, sycophants are growing in numbers. Chiming guitars and harmonies are interspersed with a tight rhythm section. This is followed swiftly by Everything I Own a haunting ode to lost love. It has a great Middle Eastern feel flowing throughout with fluid guitars and Starkie’s plaintive vocals. ‘I gave you the best of me, everything I own…. keep on digging a hole, singing a sad song’. The Readers have the ability to write elegiac, powerful anthems and this is one of them.
Yet Again provides a repetitive, hypnotic refrain with a brief introduction that strangely reminds me of God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols! Powerful stuff. Wanted Much More is a stand-out track with echoey, operatic-style vocals. A cinematic feel is provided with a very captivating synth groove.
Two Minutes Hate references the daily ritual in George Orwell’s 1984 book where party members scream at images of enemies of the state). Here The Slow Readers Club lament about the outpourings of vitriol and rage on social media sites and whether to engage in it as an outlet. In complete contrast the album finales with Like I Wanted To which appears to start with a gentle piano ballad, but this is the calm before the storm. A wall of potent guitar, drums and Starkie’s emotion-drenched vocals builds to a cataclysmic climax.
The Slow Readers Club are unstoppable. 91 Days In Isolation is a sign of our times, a heady mix of prophetic tales for our generation. What’s next for them? If lockdown persists, expect another album in seven months(!), if not go seem them live when you can.