While it goes without saying that the UK’s lockdown changed the lives of millions of people, and indeed continues to do so, for musicians and those in bands it’s meant a whole rethink to their operations. After all, how does a band write, record, even practice properly without being in the same room as one another?
For almost all of them, social media held the answer. Cover versions, listening parties, live streams all became commonplace over those first months of lockdown, and Manchester’s The Slow Readers Club were no exception. But while they kept fans happy with the typical triumvirate we came to expect at the time, they also went one better.
They wrote a whole bloody album.
Written and shared between members across the internet over lockdown, the perfectly titled 91 Days in Isolation drips with a dramatic air of grandiosity that’s so befitting of The Slow Readers Club, even before a note has been played. And while it may not have been recorded over those first worrisome weeks, it’s a record that perfectly encapsulates the mood of the nation at that time.
Brooding paranoid has never been far from the surface of The Slow Readers Club, and it’s that with which things are kicked off here. ‘Barricades’ offers three minutes of quintessential Readers, reassuring fans in seconds whilst establishing their trademark aesthetic instantly.
Indeed, while much of 91 Days…is in fact quintessential Readers, it harbours more than its fair share of moments that feel not so much a step in a new direction but certainly like a broadening of their horizons. The almost shamanistic menace of ‘Everything I Own’ for instance, the understated peaks and troughs of ‘Lost Summer’ or bombast of ‘Like I Wanted To, a closing number that feels as much like Sigur Ros as it does Bond theme.
Of course, there are plenty of moments when The Slow Readers Club revert to the fan-pleasing freneticism that has made them a household name in recent years. ‘The Great Escape’ is one example. Anthemic and utterly straight out of the SRC playbook it’s a welcome return to the aesthetics of their first two records. ‘Two Minutes Hate’ is another example, a huge, soaring indie-pop number, it’s indicative of indie acts such as Orphan Boy, or even The Enemy, though thankfully retaining the same levels of finesse that have always set Slow Readers apart.
It’s been a strange year for everyone. And though 91 Days in Isolation wasn’t recorded over lockdown specifically, it still manages to perfectly encapsulate the shifting sands that have been the nation’s collective mood over that period. From moments of resplendent highs, quiet introspection, seething frustration and overall anxiety, it’s been a whirlwind of emotions for almost all of us, and while such complexities are almost impossible to encapsulate, The Slow Readers Club have manage to distil the essence of that into eight songs that are as cathartic as they are memorable.
Immeasurably better than any banana bread made over lockdown, 91 Days… is as much as a window into a period of the UK’s history as it is a welcome return from one of the best band’s the UK has to offer at the moment.