Manchester’s the Slow Show consists of Rob Goodwin (vocals, guitar), Frederik ‘t Kindt (keyboards), Joel Byrne-McCullough (lead guitar), Chris Hough (drums) and James Longden (bass). They began their incarnation when keyboardist and producer Kindt helped launch the Manchester studio Blueprint, where Elbow, Justin Timberlake, Duran Duran and Johnny Marr have recorded. Goodwin was playing guitar in another band, and their mutual passion for brass bands, film music and orchestras drew them together and they became house-mates.
Guitarist Joel Byrne-McCullough and drummer Chris Hough joined when they played at Blueprint and impressed them, and bassist James Longden when they heard him through the Manchester music scene. They met in 2010 and quickly gained a cult following across Europe. Their debut album White Water was released in 2015 taking four years to finish. This was an angry, affair with singer Goodwin’s acerbic vocals bearing comparisons with Leonard Cohen and Mark Lanegan. For Dream Darling he refined his vocals to become more of a storyteller with stripped back songs.
The album was recorded at a farmhouse in the Lake District. “Manchester has too many lovely distractions”, The band would start at 8am and record until 2am. In making Dream Darling the band went through several personal challenges and losses (Kindt’s father died shortly before recording began and Goodwin’s 12 year relationship broke up). Track 1 Strangers Now begins with the poetic line of “Who’s breaking your heart tonight?” to a haunting piano. “Are we two strangers now?” This is an unembellished song with a marching drum beat and orchestration and Goodwin’s cavernous vocals. Powerful stuff. Hurts tells of a man offering to help a sex worker change her life.
This has guest vocals from local Manchester singer Kesha Ellis whose addition to the song is brief but poignant. The video and lyrics for Ordinary Lives are evocative with the introduction “These images are dedicated to people who have been forgotten” and show photos of a woman taken in various holiday locations over 20 years. “I’m proud of you boy, look how far you’ve come, proud of who you are, happy how you’ve changed. I won’t see you much more but that’s okay, I can rest assured that you’re happy, I am not afraid, I can see so clear, proud of who I am, it’s time to disappear, this is my farewell, I can’t stay here” you can’t fail to be moved by this commanding song. “This is no ordinary life”. This is a stand-out track.
Lullaby has a delicate guitar intro and Goodwin’s voice is profound. The songs are simple but this simplicity and the strength of his vocal is enough to carry the songs forward. Dry My Bones tells of a drinker singing to his loved one “Everywhere I look there’s a drink and it’s staring back at me…..don’t cry, I tried to dry my bones” and is heartfelt. Brawling Tonight has an enchanting duet with Kesha Ellis. “I never felt so low, San Francisco’s calling” and is enticing. Last Man Standing tells of the heartbreak of a man jilted at the altar.
The album finishes with the heavenly tones of Brick that seems to suggest a powerful message of hope and that the journey may be tough but it’s worth it, you’ve come through, and there are good things to come. Whilst the album’s theme is infused with stories of loss and change it is not a dismal collection of songs, it is more a record to be listened to whilst in a reflective mood. Goodwin is the minstrel, the raconteur on a ship telling of different lives and the band are his crew mates, weathered, worn but not beaten as they navigate their way through life’s storms to triumph with this majestic, jubilant, album.