The White Stripes? The Kills? Blood Red Shoes? Any list of half-decent duos in recent rock’n’roll history quickly descends into a kind of ‘Er, will this do?’ scrabble for small victories. Not surprising; two is a hard number to make work in a band, without the freedom of a solo artist or the power of a trio. The usual solution is to turn the guitars up and whack the fuck out of the drums in the hope that no-one misses the bass. Well, it worked for Jack and Meg.
Sheffield duo Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson, aka Slow Club,, take the opposite route for their debut album, dishing up a mish-mash of folk, country, skiffle and oh-so-cute indie-pop sounds which are far too delicate to need that nasty masculine bass guitar anyway. It’s an approach which won’t be to everyone’s taste – in fact, there’s a certain type of person who’ll hate it. These people – for argument’s sake we’ll call them ‘idiots’ – will doubtless hurl their favourite four-letter word, ‘twee’, at Slow Club as if it were the cause of all the world’s ills, from climate change to Adam Sandler. As I said, these people are idiots.
Anyway, this album is twee. Shamelessly so. Half of the songs here are about love; not the sweaty, sexy kind but an innocent, old-fashioned type that would be happy merely to hold hands until the third date. And would probably get a nosebleed even at that. It’s studded with handclaps, harmonies, high-pitched yelps of happiness and songs about mice. Drummer Rebecca taps out rhythms on spoons, glass bottles and even chairs. It’s all deeply, deeply uncool.
No matter; it’s also uplifting, catchy, interesting, joyous, heartbreaking and–not that it matters, obviously – very good. The album splits fairly equally between upbeat jangly tunes and more delicate accoustic-guitar-led efforts. The former are without exception excellent: ‘Giving Up On Love’ combines a country-hoedown feel with a twee-pop finish [Let’s call it ‘countwee’ – New Genre Ed], the folky stomp of ‘Our Most Brilliant Friends’ is so life-affirmingly happy it would make even Andy Murray crack a smile, and next single ‘It Doesn’t Have To Be Beautiful’ proves it is possible to find a mid-point between Johnny Cash and Los Campesinos!. A couple of the slower songs do stray towards mawkishness, but there’s enough self-deprecating dark humour to drag it back from Heart FM territory, and in the achingly beautiful closing track ‘Boys On Their Birthdays’ they’ve written one of the year’s sweetest ballads, albeit one that ends with the gloriously incongruous line “The bones inside my shins are crumbling/It’s from all the crunking I’ve been doing”.
Two’s company, so the saying goes. Very good company, we’d say.