For all the promise that SPQR’s The House That Doubt Built showed, it unfortunately fell short. The ideas were there, but there was just something lacking about the math-rock-meets-indie-pop execution that didn’t feel up to scratch, and that was truly disappointing. After all, the band have built quite a name for themselves lately, especially in the local Liverpool scene, and while the onus on personal music has been so heavily emphasised by frontman Peter Harrison, the fact that it didn’t connect a great deal is still hugely deflating to the listener. But even so, Low Sun Long Shadows looks to be operating with much greater force and swiftness this time around; the circumstances of its creation might be bleak, but being fuelled by the dejection that comes from mental illness in an environment ravaged by government funding cuts has the sort of weight that a band like SPQR needs, and while success is an even more subjective term than usual given Harrison’s focus on himself, this feels like the springboard that this band needs to really achieve something great.
And yet, what’s most impressive is that, even though this does feel like a more definitive statement from SPQR than their last release, Low Sun Long Shadows still hints at plenty to come in terms of creativity, uniqueness and sheer passionate rigour. This is one of the rare occasions where the erratic, open-ended nature of a band’s sound is an advantage, with the sense of depth and deep discomfort that comes from their sound feeling all the more electrifying with each sonic tic and shift. And as much as that can be slightly disorienting, particularly when there doesn’t seem to be a particularly stable baseline, it certainly works overall as far as a diverse and lucid sonic canvas goes.
On the other hand though, it can make it a bit difficult to judge Low Sun Long Shadows on its overall merits when that’s not really a factor, at least on the surface. The acute shifts are very much divided into their own thrills that, for the vast majority of the time, SPQR prove to be extremely adept at embracing, whether that’s the ticking indie-rock creak of Slowly and Josephine, the abrasive post-hardcore shrapnel burst of Our Mother’s Sons, or the star-shooting swell of This Gore which can effectively be seen as a wonkier take on the absolute biggest of Britrock ballads. There’s really not a bad song or even idea on here, as SPQR isolate what works for them, give it the vibrancy and vulnerability that’s so prevalent in Harrison’s inimitable vocal delivery, and allow it to fly from there. Alongside a production style that has a good amount of polish and tautness but remains distinctly intimate, it overall feels like the ideal way for this sort of self-examination and catharsis to come across. Our Mother’s Sons might be the most direct example in clear aggression, but the human qualities that permeate throughout never feel any less stark, particularly coming from a presence as distinct as Harrison’s that wears its emotionality prominently on its sleeve.
And ultimately, that’s what makes SPQR stand out, particularly in how they’ve evolved between this EP and their last. Their pick-and-choose approach to sounds helps, but that would be nothing without something tangible to back it up, and Low Sun Long Shadows has that in spades. There’s weight to these tracks that even an unfortunately short runtime can’t overshadow, and while this hasn’t quite reached the fantastic heights that SPQR keep teasing they’re capable of getting to, they’re moving in the right direction. There’s something undoubtedly special about this band, and they’re so close to unleashing what it is.
For fans of: Press To MECO, Kagoule, Sœur
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Low Sun Long Shadows’ by SPQR is released on 26th April on Modern Sky Records.