Band names are rarely descriptive, but for Clock Opera, whose sound consists of grand melodies and repeating electronic loops, there could hardly be a more suitable title.
Currently in the middle of a tour which has stretched across the US and Europe, the London-based group played Nottingham’s Bodega on Tuesday night in support of their debut album Ways to Forget.
Originating as the laptop enterprise of frontman Guy Connelly – who had previously remixed songs for the likes of Metronomy and Marina & The Diamonds under the Clock Opera moniker – the band are now a coherent four-piece with Dan Armstrong on keyboards, Che Albrighton on drums and Andy West switching between bass and guitar. Thankfully, despite less than organic beginnings, there is no hierarchy here. As all four members make their contributions, it’s clear that Clock Opera are anything but an individual-led pet project.
Fidgeting throughout, hopping on the spot and twirling a red microphone cable, vocally Connelly is most similar to a namesake of his; Guy Garvey of Elbow. Musically the Manchester group is an influence too, but there’s no violin in sight. Instead they’re replaced by keyboards and samplers, on which Dan Armstrong makes energetic adjustments as well as adding backing vocals.
Despite having only a single album of songs to choose from, Clock Opera manage to wield out an impressive setlist. ‘Man Made’, possessing a guitar riff almost as gritty as that of Radiohead’s ‘Myxomatosis’, is particularly danceable. While ‘Belongings’ serves as a textbook example of Clock Opera’s songwriting structure; founded on a tender, repetitive piano loop the song develops a crescendo whereby supporting guitars kick-in, but the piano remains at the forefront. Structurally, the bass-driven ‘Lesson No. 7’ is similar.
An innovative performance of ‘A Piece of String’ sees the band bring out everything but the kitchen sink, almost literally. A metal tankard and the lid of a hard plastic case are lifted into the air and beaten as percussion instruments. The latter, we’re told, is a replacement for the usual metal tray – apparently stolen by a punter in Dublin clearly looking beyond the standard band tee as a piece of memorabilia – but Connelly seems undeterred by having to perform with the makeshift alternative. The composition is energetic, but also rather clever. Knowing when less is more, Clock Opera are equally able to seize the moment; expertly building up song after song, layer upon layer.
One can’t help but observe that Clock Opera’s luscious melodies and grand harmonies feel trapped by the close confines of Nottingham’s Bodega. This is music which could project itself around an arena, not just the upstairs room of an intimate club. That might be jumping the gun slightly – the band are still at the stage of setting up their equipment themselves pre-gig – but, without sacrificing originality, Clock Opera boast a likable accessibility which suggests that bigger and better things may be yet to come.
Robert is listening to Athlete – ‘It’s Not Your Fault’