A product of perfectionism, but one where mechanical process obscures its human presence.
Natalie Shaw 2012-04-18
Clock Opera’s debut album has been a long while coming – for a band first making waves in 2009, Ways to Forget has been given an unusual amount of time to form. But instead of feeding impatient sycophants with a rush-release, Guy Connelly’s sound has now found its signature. Clock Opera take a series of psychotically structured songs and make them sound as natural and easy as exhalations by the end of this debut LP.
Ways to Forget is an exhilarating set of sounds built from the ground up – clearly, the product of intense perfectionism on stage. Layers are added, galloping on and gasping for breath, before crumbling down and soaring back up again. Desperate, instructively written crescendos define the Clock Opera sound – each rousing build-up’s awkwardness is tempered by how organised it sounds.
In creating a sound so mechanical, however, Clock Opera have discarded the idea that live technique may not transfer to the studio. While these passages feel so compelling on stage, there’s a frustrating indulgence present on a few too many tracks. Lesson No.7’s climax is unnecessarily demanding in its persistence, while 11th Hour takes too long to make an impression and peters out weakly by the end. Belongings’ understated beauty adds a human touch, but falls at the final hurdle with an over-earnest drum section.
Brevity aside, Ways to Forget is astoundingly apt at weaving tones and colours, placing and surrounding melodies in a wilderness. White Noise is situated in the middle perfectly, weaving its intricate patchwork quilt into something both accessible and dynamic. It’s purpose-built for fans of The Associates, Gary Numan, Adem and Everything Everything.
Once and for All’s fixation on time and change waffles on a little, but the steely synths and elegant vocals add power and punch. Elsewhere, A Piece of String’s confidence is a neat counterpoint to the barrage of chorus-less alternative pop hopping over the airwaves. The rich colour of Connelly’s vocal is a big strength, constantly at war with the tension and relief of what’s going on just beneath it.
If Ways to Forget had been reimagined for the studio, this would be a phenomenal debut album. As it is, we have a taste of Clock Opera’s vision – a penultimate draft that can be skipped, paused and shuffled at the listener’s will. Not quite yet the coherent full album that its time in the making hinted at, but nonetheless a welcome addition to record collections.