From the very beginning, JAWS carry a slightly darkened air about them. Their debut album, ‘Be Slowly,’ opens with ambient noise followed by rattling drums and screeching guitars, all leading to the coalescence of the group in some groovy dream world at dusk. The group sounds like some sort of modern take on new wave. Imagine if Foals were raised strictly on New Order and Joy Division: in JAWS’ world effects driven guitars and melancholic vocals join forces with groovy bass and drums. In this fashion, vocalist Connor Schofield introduces himself with the line “let’s talk about my thoughts.” Pausing for a breath, he finishes “enough of mine, let’s hear yours.” It’s unclear whether Schofield elects to spend so little time on his own thoughts in order to avoid dealing with them or to hear his companion’s thoughts sooner. This is JAWS in prime form. The dimly-lit dance music pairs nicely with brooding, borderline self-deprecating, possibly obsessive lyrics.
Unfortunately, the Englishmen don’t always live up to their fullest potential. ‘Be Slowly’ continues to obsess over relationships, alternating between wondering the other’s thoughts and pure adoration, but this doesn’t prove totally effective. Plenty of new wave and dream pop groups make obsession so appealing, particularly in relationships. The problem for JAWS comes in the genuineness of the vocals. Often times, Schofield delivers half-hearted melodies for contrived lyrics. Lines like “follow your heart, follow your soul” come across forced and insincere. The lyrics definitely stand as the biggest weakness throughout ‘Be Slowly.’
The first half of the album drags a little, but don’t give up–the second half catches JAWS in full stride. Starting with the ballad-esque “NYE,” the four piece delivers a vibrant and energized set of songs. The group doesn’t change their sound, they just seem to master it better in the later cuts. The group have dialed down the effects providing more clarity and they’re willing to dabble with varying genres and dynamics. Not to mention the lyrics see significant improvement.
Listening to “Think Too Much, Feel Too Little” it’s clear that JAWS has lots of potential; the song has a dangerous amount of swagger. “Think Too Much” drifts right into “Filth” which sees an increased interest in the dream pop genre, even some 90’s influence. Distorted guitars rule the chorus while distant, airy vocals provide a welcome bit of texture to the newly intensified sound of the group. JAWS continue to spend more time with loud/soft dynamics, dreamy dance sections, and fuzzy guitars. This is a good place for the band. Without so much delay and echo everything gets extra space to shine and the style shifts keep things interesting while remaining gentle enough to keep things coherent.
‘Be Slowly’ taps in to a sound that fits in with contemporaries, but generally has its own unique characteristics. JAWS’ weakest moments come when they fall into trappings of repetitive and empty pop music. Luckily, the band manages to break away from that and deliver some truly cool songs. Don’t get disillusioned by the first chunk of the album, there is light at the end of JAWS’ dark tunnel.