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Where Slow Club are concerned, that old Woody Allen chestnut springs to mind; "a relationship is like a shark - it has to keep moving forwards, or it dies." Since releasing their debut full-length, Yeah So, in 2009, the Sheffield duo have approached their music with relentless appetite for progression, one that suggests they're desperate to ensure that - unlike Allen - they don't end up with a dead shark on their hands.

They threw us a genuine curveball with 2011's Paradise - a fabulously diverse effort that blew away suggestions that they were little more than a one-dimensional twee-pop act; it's one of those cleverly-layered, lovingly-produced albums that throws up something genuinely new with every listen. By Charles Watson's own admission, though, when I interviewed the band for this site recently, there was an element of the kitchen sink mentality to the record, too - something they've sought to strip away on Complete Surrender.

They've managed it, too; the record plays like a paean to retro pop, hand-picking the best of the genre from the sixties and seventies and presenting it for a twenty-first century audience. 'Tears of Joy' opens the record with a shuffling drum pattern plucked straight from Twin Peaks, and builds an upbeat track around deceptively delicate vocals. 'Everything Is New' is a standout; it simmers for the first couple of minutes, with wistfully-plucked guitar over gorgeously subtle strings, then explodes into a wonderfully cathartic choral section that has two voices sounding like fifty. It's a terrific example of what Slow Club do so well: take pop music in its traditional form, and make it work for them, on their own terms.

Speaking of vocals, Rebecca Taylor's remarkable progress continues apace; she's theatrical on sixties stomper 'Suffering You, Suffering Me', but avoids melodrama, and displays an impressively extended range on the bolshy 'The Queen's Nose'. 'Dependable People and Things That I'm Sure Of', meanwhile, revisits the forthright lyrical territory of old; against a sparse instrumental backdrop, Taylor sells its sentiment with real conviction.

There's other nods to the stripped back and straightforward Slow Club we once knew elsewhere - Watson's 'Paraguay and Panama', a quick-fire acoustic love song, is a case in point - but as nice as it is to see the pair make fleeting concessions to their past, it's when they step into the unknown that they genuinely thrill. The title-track is probably the highlight; it's scored through with a real sense of urgency, with increasingly terse vocal exchanges eventually backed by some dramatic late strings. Of note, too, is the percussion; on an album that takes most of its pop cues form the past, there's a distinctly modern flavour to 'Complete Surrender''s fluttering beat.

Where maturity was probably the key word for reviews of Paradise, here it feels like sophistication is more fitting; where old Slow Club charmed you, new Slow Club have you wrestling with frustrating catchiness one minute - 'The Pieces' - and are punching you in the stomach the next - see the heart-rending 'Number One'. No dead sharks here, then; just the sound of a once-cult band confounding their perceived limitations and joining the top tier of Britain's pop purveyors in the process.

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