PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

JAWS: Be Slowly

These Birmingham lads mine their musical past to create a sound in keeping with their influences without straying too far from established templates, finding comfort in familiarity.


JAWS

Be Slowly

Label: Side One Dummy
US Release Date: 2014-09-23
UK Release Date: 2014-09-15
Amazon
iTunes

Sounding a bit like a fuller, more production-focused version of Drums, operating essentially within the same sonic framework, however having expanded upon the basic Drums sound to create something larger and more in keeping with both groups’ inspirations, JAWS’ Be Slowly does the former one better by creating a solid top to bottom album of shimmering guitar pop that stands equal to its inspirations; a simple tweaking of the established formula here and there helps assure JAWS’ place in the pantheon of ‘80s-minded guitar pop bands currently making the rounds on both sides of the pond.

Opening track “Time” begins with a subtle sonic swell that explodes into crisp production, fluid guitar lines and rhythmically precise bass and drum interplay that lends the track an air of ‘80s-indebted pop in both its production and sonic qualities, albeit with a fuller, beefier low end than the majority of tinny sounding ‘80s singles. From there, it’s off and running with a slew of sleek, stylized guitar pop tracks that sound immediately familiar and immensely inhabitable. There's nothing revolutionary, but sometimes the best sounds are those we find the most relatable, those in which we find something instantly recognizable and falsely nostalgic.

Majestic guitars, room-filling drums and muscular bass lines drive nearly every track on this, their debut full-length. “Swim”, in particular, is a massive single in the making. Featuring an oscillating synth line that bisects the appropriately jangly, reverb-heavy guitar lines, the mix fitting the sound and feel of the song perfectly. Reverbed guitars recall the best moments of the Cure, the Smiths and a myriad similar-minded guitar groups shrouded in the appropriate amount of melancholy. It’s a massive song that deserves to be heard by any fans of the aforementioned godfathers of this kind of guitar-driven, moody pop music.

Rather than functioning as a separate component, the vocals sit comfortably within the mix, wrapped in layers of guitars and reverb, not altogether obscuring the lyrics themselves, rather rendering them essentially inconsequential and more a part of the whole than the subject of individual focus. Throughout, single-note guitar lines provide shading and texture, often mirroring the vocal lines themselves, acting as a skeletal harmony voice that compliments and furthers the vocals’ purpose as a secondary instrument or additional vehicle to convey a specific mood or tone.

On “NYE”, JAWS shows off its dynamic range, beginning as a slow ballad before gradually building upon itself until it explodes in a triumphant outro chorus that features a grandiose guitar line perfectly encapsulating the overall mood and feel of the song. Rather than feeling like an unearned payoff, the tonal shift and dynamic contrast functions as a logical progression that draws the listener along for the ride rather than pulling them directly into less-than-genuine emotionality.

“Think Too Much, Feel Too Little” features a strutting bass and drums figure that wouldn’t sound out of place on any number of early Duran Duran singles. This cocksure rhythmic combination provides a perfect foundation upon which to build their early-‘80s white boy funk, in the process creating a welcomed rhythmic shift as nearly everything else on Be Slowly follows a fairly similar template in terms of form, structure and tempo.

Elsewhere, massive guitars erupt on the chorus of “Filth”, breaking out of their previously skeletal rut to become fully formed, fleshed out and making their presence well and fully known. Sounding like a modern day Nirvana with their loud/soft dynamics and chanted outro lyrics, the song even features a minimalist guitar solo, one of the only present on the album.

“Home”, with its riff-heavy structure and sparse electronic percussion eventually subsumed by live drums and a fuller instrumental arrangement, bears more than passing resemblance to early-to-mid-period New Order, with its melodic single note guitar lines and driving bass toying with the listener in an almost spot-the-reference manner.

Throughout it is this familiarity and lack of genre-busting sounds that makes JAWS’ Be Slowly so instantly appealing. Whether or not it will carry with it the staying power of its most direct influences remains to be seen, but for now it’s period-correct sound and feel is spot-on and heads and shoulders above their contemporaries. An overall satisfying listen for those who’ve tired of their Cure/New Order/Smiths/et. al. albums and are looking for something new but not too dissimilar.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.