ALBUM REVIEW: The Slow Readers Club - Knowledge Freedom Power
A powerful synth-rock statement primed to fill venues with joyous headbangers and toe-tappers
Hopeful yet dystopian, The Slow Readers Club’s sixth album, Knowledge Freedom Power uplifts and energises. Heavily synth-inspired, the Manchester band benefit from excellent production from Joe Cross, who has produced records for Hurts and The Courteeners, while Aaron Starkie’s vocals are the standout feature, conveying strength and vulnerability and demonstrating great variety in his performance.
The Slow Readers Club wear their heart on their sleeves. Knowledge Freedom Power is stirring, anthemic and readymade for live shows. A broad range of influences are present with similarities to Editors, Muse and even 80s New Romantic pop springing up across the 10 tracks.
The album begins with ‘Modernise’, its menacing bass line reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails as Starkie details the movement towards a more automated society and refraining ‘it’s time to modernise!’. The song is a headbanger and arguably the best song out of the collection. ‘Afterlife’ leans on arch Editors-style indie as Starkie’s vocals come to the fore, lyrically seeking hope.
Funky synth dominates ‘Sacred Song’ with Starkie’s positive lyrics about love being a force for good delivered as if the frontman of Spandau Ballet.
‘Lay Your Troubles on Me’ is a lovely call for sharing problems among friends with vocal delivery this time a little like Tim Booth of James and the music building to a breathless crescendo of kaleidoscopic synth (much like ‘A Warehouse in London’ by Spector) and crashing drums and guitar.
The title track is an anthem featuring urgent synth and a chanted chorus, extolling the virtues of education as a means to escape your circumstances. ‘Forget About Me’ discusses leaving a lover over danceable electro-indie, calling to mind Metric and MGMT.
‘No You Never’s icy synth apes Kathryn Joseph’s ‘what is keeping you alive makes me want to kill them for’ which then makes way for the band coming together as Starkie pines for a greater future.
Starkie’s brother, Kurtis, provides great soundscapes on guitar, James Ryan on bass shines on a few of the songs and David Whitworth’s drumming is tight and unshowy.
At times, the lyrics come across as generic and the album veers into the mediocre, but the twists and invention in each song, as well as the conviction in Starkie’s vocals, lifts Knowledge Freedom Power to impressive heights. What at first might seem like just another radio-friendly indie record reveals itself to be a powerful synth-rock statement primed to fill venues with joyous headbangers and toe-tappers which distinguishes The Slow Readers Club from some of its peers.
Knowledge Freedom Power comes out this Friday (24 February) via Velveteen Records