Clare Maguire Light After Dark Review

Released 2011.  

BBC Review

A voice big enough to warrant a weather warning from the Home Office.

Lewis G. Parker 2011

The electronic crackles and wolverine bellows on the prelude to Clare Maguire’s debut album suggests that what follows will be an ocean-deep record. When the first song – track two, The Shield and the Sword – kicks in, keyboards masquerade as strings and we can hear the petite, Birmingham-born (to an Irish family) girl summon the power of a storm with her breath. It’s a voice big enough to warrant a weather warning from the Home Office, and the song makes Maguire sound stronger than anything the world can throw at her.

On the first two tracks we are led to believe that Maguire could be an experimental folkie in the mould of Patrick Wolf, who combines rustic songwriting with electronic pop and experimental bleeps. It would be a step forward for the music industry to be pushing someone with such a rich palette into the mainstream singer-songwriter bracket. But the production – by chart-grabbing Fraser T Smith (James Morrison, Taio Cruz, Cee-Lo) – can only bring so much depth or variety to unadventurous songs which are bellowed and wailed with all the subtlety of Florence Welch giving birth to a rhino.

Maguire’s voice would easily be big enough to put her through to the later stages of X Factor, if that matters. But with charts, radio playlists and awards love-ins teeming with women with big voices – Adele, Duffy, Winehouse, Florence et al – it seems like this is just the latest CD to keep in the car for the drive home after a hard day at the office. The songs seem to be about standing strong and not letting the haters, whoever they are, grind us down. Although the lyrics are so vague – therefore appealing to as wide an audience as possible – that they can be interpreted to mean whatever we like.

"I’ve been cutting connections, causing the walls to build up around me… I walk in shallow waters, should have gone my own way," she sings on You’re Electric. It’s straight from the Chris Martin school of songwriting, and assumes the record-buying public can be stimulated by something which communicates nothing other than a total lack of imagination.

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