Anyone who paid attention to our 2012 South by Southwest coverage will be aware of my glowing CoSign of British chop-pop act Clock Opera. Offering a dazzling live show, complete with the clanging of old silverware, the band has made the harrowing transition to an equally captivating record of synth-powered gold with their debut, Ways to Forget.
For relying so heavily on synths, the album is neither overly technical and gloomy nor glitchy and bubbly. Instead, the group has found the perfect balance between intricacy and sheer abandonment. Lost Buoys is the Kansas City Shuffle of pop: Starting with frontman Guy Connelly’s simple falsetto vocals, a disco groove of epic proportions suddenly attacks, powered by whirling, whimsical synths akin to the buzz of a low-flying alien spacecraft.
Once and for All takes a reverse approach, laying down a thick current of overly artificial effects similar to old toy robot sounds. Then, at the apex, Connellys theatrical voice take center stage, seizing the listeners attention in a truly disarming moment. Though opposing, both approaches aid the band in maintaining succinctness and demonstrating a commitment to legitimate unpredictability.
Perhaps the bands most endearing quality is what Ive deemed The Peter Gabriel Effect: an ability to blend influences to create songs that are simultaneously approachable and artsy. Man Made is the albums clearest devotee to that idea, a regal-sounding affair of clichéd rock guitar buzz, jangly, pseudo-Bollywood synths, and Connellys vocals tweaked to their most pompous degree.
Somehow, these obscure pieces form a joyous anthem, with the chorus (I wanna show you how much I’ve left to lose/I wanna show you how much I’ve got to prove) drilling itself into the part of your brain reserved for motivational jingles from Nike ads. Its true skill to be that artistically bizarre and still generate popular appeal.
Whether on stage or on record, Clock Operas brand of mutilated pop music shimmers as a genuinely profound musical experience. Excuse the awful pun, but their time is most definitely now.
Essential Tracks: Man Made, Lost Buoys, and Once and for All