The indie scene in today’s music industry is as strong as ever. What originally began in the 1980s with the rejection of mainstream synthpop tendencies in favor of much rawer, grunge-influenced sound has metamorphosed into a unbelievably diverse collection of bearded, flannel-clad modern musicians. Of course, that’s a very simple way of describing it, but you get the idea. The point is that the concept of the highly independent artist who has total control of the creative side of their music. So now let’s dial our focus in quite a bit and shine the spotlight on a particular group from Great Britain named Clock Opera.
Although the band was first formed in 2009, they did not release their debut album, Ways to Forget, until 2012. Some would say that three years is a long time to prepare an album, but I would argue that there is no standard duration for such a feat. The one thing that can be said for certain is that the prolonged wait for the group’s debut was definitely worth it. After listening to the record many times and letting it sink in, its true potential shines through. Just as a fine wine matures with age, so too does Ways to Forget reap the benefits of its delayed release date.
The mastermind behind Clock Opera is a man named Guy Connelly. As a matter of fact, the band’s original incarnation was as Connelly’s solo project, created after he moved on from his previous bands: The Fallout Trust and The Corrections. Along the way, he picked up Andy West on guitar and bass, Dan Armstrong on keyboards, electronics, and backing vocals, and drummer Che Albrighton to round out the group. They have been performing live since the early days of their emergence, playing at festivals throughout the UK and moving into America, playing at SXSW in 2011 and 2012. After the release of Ways to Forget, they picked up their first headlining tours, travelling across both continents once again.
The sound of Clock Opera is made up of many characteristics associated with indie electronic music today. Underneath the slightly rugged vocals of Connelly lies an abundant field of rock guitar riffs, reverberant drums, catchy synth melodies, and a fair share of “found” object samples. For those of you who aren’t familiar with that last term, “found” samples in music are random objects – laundry machines, metal tankards, auto parts, anything and everything else – that are used to contribute a more distinct percussive layer to a composition. In the case of Clock Opera, you can hear a tattoo needle, a washing machine, and the buzzer from the classic game Operation all on the track “White Noise.”
Clash hails the album as “a bar-raiser – an album of intelligent synth-pop bubbling with humanity.” A fitting description, in my opinion, if not a bit ironic, since the indie movement began in part as a rejection of synthpop thirty years ago. Musical society has certainly come a long way since then, as we now see an intensely integrated community that pulls influences from any and all styles across the globe. Such a revolution is easily apparent in the music of Clock Opera, which blends together elements of alternative rock, dream pop, and electronica. The result is a pleasantly mellow wash of sound that falls somewhere between the poppier edge of Imagine Dragons and the shoegaze stylings of Loraine.
As we close out June and enter the month of July, Ways to Forget has the potential to become the essential soundtrack for a lighthearted summer (man, does that sound cliché though). It’s cheerful, it’s hip, and it’s dreamy. It perfectly fits into the cozy niche that it has carved out for itself. Having been released to the public for over a year now, it still possesses all of its original sheen, and continues to surprise and inspire even after the seventeenth listen (rough estimate). For a music enthusiast who constantly seeks out ridiculously ambitious, highly conceptualized works of art, I find that sometimes the best stimulation can come from the more carefree and jovial vibes of a group like Clock Opera.