A cold, wet night in Manchester on arguably the most heartless, cynical day of the calendar year, Black Friday- a year rather has been rather negative to boot. Sometimes it is best to simply embrace the gloom for what it is, and within the Manchester Albert Hall, two bands have bridged the north-south divide and united a country to dance in defiance of misery, London’s Desperate Journalist have joined The Slow Readers Club for their hometown show (the penultimate night of their Through The Shadows tour), capping of a year that can only be described as meteoric for both bands. It might be miserable, but a Friday night is still a Friday night, and the sell-out crowd are in rare form.
12-string guitars are usually associated with jangly indie or sun-drench West Coast pop, but Desperate Journalist are practically an antithesis, drawing from darker, more atmospheric places- a dense fog, bludgeoning the audience into submission with powerhouse drumming underneath echoing, jagged guitar lines bring to mind Seventeen Seconds-era Cure and the more melodic, less psychedelic Siouxsie LPs.
Slashing into their songs with even more intensity than they show in the studio, ripping through their material and leaving them bleeding at the end- the opening salvo of “Control” and “Why Are You So Boring?” a perfect showcase of this unrestrained power, with material from new album Grow Up sitting perfectly alongside showcases from their self-titled debut and following EPs.
The sound of Desperate Journalist is cavernous thanks to the reverb-soaked chiming guitar, yet claustrophobic and icy- a soundscape not unlike Martin Hannett’s work behind the desk for Joy Division or The Durutti Column. What sets Desperate Journalist apart, however, is the voice of Jo Bevan, piercing through with incredible strength and emotional depth, equal parts fury and fragility, barely acknowledging the crowd as the band fire on all cylinders around her. This is heartbreak indie for when the anger eclipses the sadness, when you realise they were wrong, not you, they never deserved you, you’re better off now. Desperate Journalist are the soundtrack to get you through.
Owing to the fact that this is indeed a Friday night, by the time Slow Readers Club made the stage, the hometown crowd were in good voice- chants of ‘Readers!’ and singing along their entrance music (“Somebody To Love” by Jefferson Airplane) made it very apparent that the Club have been welcomed back as heroes. Clad in Ian Curtis-style black raincoat, frontman Aaron Starkie is gifted with a stentorian voice, firing clear through the layers of processed guitar and atmospheric post-punk synthesisers echoing out into the infinite- bleak but danceable, with anthemic choruses acting as bursts of sunlight through the mire.
Their new single “Lunatic” is all muscle and driving tension propelled by jackhammer beats and pulsating keys, providing the crowd with more singalong opportunities. It is clear that The Slow Readers Club are the heirs apparent to the dark, intense throne one held by Editors some years ago, and feel very much like a natural progression of them as more material from latest album Cavalcade gets featured next to more established songs (again, the rabid crowd ate it up and sang along to every word).
The entire show had the feeling of a homecoming, this is the largest Manchester show The Club have played to this point, “a dream come true for us” indeed, as huge balloons were released across the venue for “I Saw A Ghost“. The Slow Readers Club seem unstoppable with upward momentum at the point, and undoubtedly going to be huge. It’s only a matter of time.
Words and Photography by Liam Moody.