Clock Opera: Ways To Forget Review

Producer and remixer Guy Connelly is best known for his inventive re-imaginings of other artists’ work. Feist, Metronomy, Everything Everything, and many others have had their tunes torn apart and tinkered with by Connelly over the years.

When those who reconstruct others’ music finally get round to creating some material of their own, there’s often the risk that the finished product will sound a little derivative.

Fortunately, that’s a landmine that Connelly has side-stepped with his new musical project, Clock Opera. Championed by achingly hip publications such as DIY and Dazed & Confused, and already featured on the soundtrack to a Made In Chelsea episode weeks prior to the album’s release, Ways To Forget is the much-heralded debut from Connelly and his assembled band of contributing musicians, and is nothing if not completely original.

Like Imogen Heap and many others, Clock Opera like to brag about the unlikely sources of their songs’ sonic makeup; the thud of a bouncing basketball in a reverberant school hall, shoes squeaking on a squash court and many more. This is audible when listening to Ways to Forget and, as is to be expected with this sort of album, the whole album sounds hyper-produced. Over produced even.

They’ve got a strong sound, Clock Opera, but it’s terribly noisy. Their songs, for all their pleasing melodies, chugging riffs, and Wild Beasts-esque vocals, have an unfortunate tendency to sound congested and crowded, teeming with effects and layers stacked on top of one another. Rather than creating any kind of orchestral wall of sound effect, though, the end result simply lacks cohesion.

That’s not to say it’s not a strong album. There are moments of real excellence here, and Connelly’s ear for a good tune is especially evident on tracks like Lesson No.7 and 11th Hour, whilst the lyrical themes of transition and redemption on Move To The Mountains and the excellent Fail Better are both evocative and cerebrally haunting.

Clock Opera’s sound is one of versatility. The understated serenity of Belongings is miles away from the swaggering confidence of A Piece Of String, whilst the clawing choral refrain of “I wanna show you how much I’ve got to lose” on lead single Man Made provides a satisfying counterpoint to the thrashing and stomping bleeps and instrumentals that drive the track along.

Ways to Forget is an album of mechanical and meticulous construction, precisely and intricately wrought together by a master craftsman. However, when listening to it, you feel a little like Vincent Cassel in Black Swan; desperate for your proverbial Portman to break free from her technical fastidiousness and show some imperfection, some improvisation, some emotion.

If you were only casting the White Swan, Ways To Forget would be everything you’re looking for an album. But you need a little Black Swan in there too.

Tom Hoare

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April 2012
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