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.
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.