One of the most storied and remarked-upon arcs in all of music is the fabled ‘difficult second album’. Weighted by the expectations of whatever was achieved with the debut, many a band has faltered at the hurdle of following their first effort up with something that retains the fan base already accrued while still distinguishing itself as a unique and important body of work.
Booklub are a slightly different beast. They don’t even have a first album, let alone a difficult second one. What they do have is their difficult second song. Last year’s ‘Pompeii‘ (or ‘ii’, depending on who you talk to) surfaced on the internet at the beginning of last year and slow-burnt its way to an entire year’s worth of publicity. It was a masterful track that announced an exciting band with a clear direction, and while its drum track lent it a clear DIY feel, there was a distinct sense of expertise here.
Almost a year after that, they’ve arrived with their second song. Scarcity of output is something that works for some acts. Jai Paul, for example, has only officially released two songs in nearly four years and has never once fallen out of the back of any music lover’s mind. But while Booklub initially enjoyed some of Jai Paul’s enigma, that didn’t last long. Three of their members came from bands – Al Bairre, The Oxygen Thieves and Sun-Do Q’lisi (RIP) – who were gigging around Cape Town on the regular. After a few relatively high-profile gigs at The Assembly and Rocking the Daisies, there was a real sense of frustration and foreboding, the dread that ‘Pompeii’ was a once-off, that the magic was gone and we weren’t going to be treated to anything more from this talented group of musicians.
And then came this week, and the release of ‘Western Hours’. Right from the first high-pitched guitar pluck and backing falsetto’d sigh-hum, nearly all worries are alleviated. The song goes a long way to assuring that their absence was no mere disappearance. Their sound has been honed and sharpened, the songwriting expanded, the ideas picked up on ‘Pompeii’ taken to even further lengths. The dream-pop opening gives way at around the 2:50 mark to the most triumphant-sounding cacophony in recent memory, the drums pounding away, and the saxophone eviscerating everything else, reminiscent of that sax line from M83’s epic ‘Midnight City’. Once again, much here is owed to the production of Thor Rixon, who ties it all together, giving the song its rich texture as well as the occasional breathing space.
The band have since announced that they will be spending the next few months writing and recording more material looking forward to a release later this year, the tentatively-titled Animal World Encyclopaedia EP. While we’d be foolish to merely believe them at their word, it’d be down-right idiotic not to be at least a little bit excited at that prospect.
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