KNOWLEDGE FREEDOM POWER
Knowledge Freedom Power, the latest studio album from The Slow Readers Club, starts with a bang, and continues in the same vein for 40 minutes – it’s a sustained wave of electro-synth-infused, upbeat euphoric energy, with a beautiful balance of darker tones.
The statement of intent for the record is set by opening track Modernise. It launches with a swathe of synthed-guitar, quickly supported with a thumping drum line before Aaron Starkie jumps in with confident vocals. As the lyrics begin to emerge, though, you realise there’s an intriguing clash between this upbeat, melodic music and the message it’s conveying. The song, and much of the album as a whole, riffs on the pressures and discontent of the modern dystopia we all find ourselves living through.
“Oh Lord, I’m nervous, the pressure here it starts to freak me out”, Aaron sings.
And yet … it’s not all bleakness and dark. There’s something more here – the euphoria and positivity which is shining through the instrumentation runs deep.
Aaron has provided a helpful explanation of where this has all come from: “The world had become so bleak it felt a little indulgent to paint apocalyptic pictures when they were playing out in the real world. I thought people would probably want to hear more uplifting things, it was my intention to be a bit more positive. There’s still a lot of melodrama in there and it’s still dystopian in places but there’s more positive shades in this record.”
You find these shades sprinkled liberally across the album: there are those beautiful sparkling moments as the chorus of Sacred Song begins; the high, resounding pings of guitar in Lay Your Troubles On Me which are a forerunner of the more forceful riffs to come; the almost shouted and anachronistically joy-filled refrain to the title track, Knowledge Freedom Power …
Elsewhere, the band plays on the more negative side of our shared experience. For example, Forget About Me sounds almost-monochromatic in places, Aaron singing around a limited range of notes to back up his words: “You don’t deceive me now, acting innocent, that’s the best you can do”.
Ending track No You Never has a sense of poignancy, vocals standing almost alone for the first minute, before the instrumentation builds in support. It’s a song which tells the story of Aaron’s childhood growing up on a council estate, and how he has reached beyond his social and financial limits to express himself through the unique power of music.
The Slow Readers Club have come back with a bang this year, promoting their new creation in a big way – they even appeared live on Soccer AM recently. The album is the Manchester band’s first studio offering since The Joy Of The Return in 2020, and the group’s fourth overall.
This record is unmistakably a work of The Slow Readers Club through and through – the familiar vocal inflections and instrumental techniques are all there. But as well as fitting comfortably into the band’s overall body of work, ensuring it will receive a warm welcome from fans, this very much feels like a step into something new, and a special work in its own right. There are some clear changes in style and direction, evidence of new inspirations, and perhaps some surprises, too. The band will be winning new admirers here.
Let’s talk about the quality of this record, too. There’s such a strong sense of craft in both the songwriting and production (which comes from Joe Cross, who has also worked with Louis Tomlinson and The Courteneers); an artisanal approach to the creation of the music and the atmosphere it all sits within. And to complement Aaron’s masterful vocals, the other band members (Kurtis Starkie on guitar, James Ryan on bass, and David Whitworth on drums) have clearly taken their role in laying down the right sounds very seriously. They play with a palpable sense of commitment and urgency, pushing forward, and relaying the often serious messages of the songs with passion while keeping the listener absolutely entertained.
The Slow Readers Club will be putting on an intimate album launch event at Band on the Wall in Manchester on 28th February, before embarking on a two-month UK and European headline tour, plus a show in support of Pixies. Watch out for a Songbird live review next month …
The tour dates, many already sold out, are:
2nd – Barrow-in-Furness, Barrow Library
4th – Leeds, University Stylus
6th – Glasgow, SWG3
7th – Aberdeen, Lemon Tree
9th – Nottingham, Rescue Rooms
10th – Birmingham, O2 Academy 2
11th – Bristol, Thekla
13th – Portsmouth, Wedgewood Rooms
14th – London, Lafayette
17th – Manchester, Albert Hall
18th – Cardiff, International Arena (special guests to Pixies)
23rd – Berlin, Hole 44
24th – Hamburg, Übel & Gefährlich
25th – Antwerp, Trix Club
30th – Paris, Supersonic
31st – Rotterdam, Rotown
1st – Amsterdam, Paradiso Tolhuistuin
14th – Belfast, Limelight 2
15th – Dublin, Academy
29th – Porto, M.Ou.Co
3. Sacred Song
4. Lay Your Troubles on Me
5. How Could You Know
6. Knowledge Freedom Power
7. What Might Have Been
8. Seconds Out
9. Forget About Me
10. No You Never
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Words by Phil Taylor