Clock Opera appeared on “ones to watch” lists for 2010. And 2011. And 2012. They finally released their debut album this past April, and it looks like the Clock Opera machine is now rolling full steam ahead. Early in their career, they got labelled “chop pop” and although frontman Guy Connelly seems uncomfortable with the tag, it’s about the only short description for their unique blend of chopped, remixed, smoothed samples and rather epic lyrics. I’ve been listening since late 2009 when they added to the lineup Dan Armstrong, whom I previously knew from his days with indie band The Rushes. Clock Opera started as the solo project of Guy Connelly, who released both remixes and original tracks under the name. Remixes released from Clock Opera continue to be Guy’s handiwork, and it was his remix of Marina & the Diamonds’ “I am Not a Robot” combined with the release of “Belongings” that really made me sit up and listen.
Their debut album, Ways to Forget, was released in both standard and deluxe versions. I have been waiting expectantly for this album for a couple of years now, and I have to say, if I had only gotten the standard version, I would have been disappointed. 6 out of the 10 tracks had previously been released as singles, and I think the versions on the cd suffer from over-production. It’s like they took somewhat disparate songs like the driving, angry Lesson No. 7, the beautiful crescendo of Once and For All, and the pop staccato of Belongings, and decided that they needed to sound more alike. Although CO’s songs tend to be slightly repetitive and formulaic, they are dern catchy and powerful, and the album versions lose that somewhat. Even Move to the Mountains, which people have begging for since it appeared in an episode of Chuck, loses a bit of what was hinted at under those lines of Chuck dialogue.
That said, my love affair with this album starts with track 8, and I think the Lost Buoys, Move to the Mountains, and Fail Better, all previously unreleased, would work for me as a happy ending. Fortunately, however, they decided to also release a deluxe version (at least in the UK). New tracks Ways to Forget (yes, the title track got dropped from the initial album lineup), New Arrivals, Glass Eye and Seven Hours add some diversity to the album, and I am SO glad they added the “under the floorboards” version of Once and For All. This song is truly lovely and the video proves all musicians ought to know how to play the piano:
Be sure and watch the music video for the original version of Once and For All as well – if that doesn’t make you cry then you have a hard, hard heart. D & I were lucky enough to catch them in Manchester last year and in New York this spring. For a while I had a hard time imagining how they could bring their sound to the live stage, but they put on a really good show, especially once they start breaking out the metal trays & kettles! Sadly, Dan said they don’t often play my favorite newer song, Fail Better, live because it requires a special setup for bassist Andy. I’m very excited, I already have my tickets for their November London show, although it would help if I had plane tickets too…
You can find Clock Opera on:
Youtube (If you’re like me and are still a bit confused by the concept of “chop pop”, watch the “making of” videos where they put in context some of the everyday sounds they incorporate)