There was a time when I didn’t go to gigs to write about them; I didn’t go to festivals to observe and convey; I didn’t listen to music to necessarily have an opinion about it. That time feels like a memory from the dim and distant path. And yet actually as recently as seven years ago, I still stubbornly held onto the opinion that people who write about music are wankers.
I saw Clock Opera lots back then. They became a favourite live band after blowing me away one afternoon/evening at Nottingham’s Dot to Dot festival. They seemed capable of squeezing that extra bit of sound from the Rescue Rooms decks; you couldn’t help but feel fully immersed whenever they played. Their live brand of complicated electronic pop was always magical and incredible.
I saw them more in festival fields; an odd late-night Monday morning billing at Bestival after Stevie Wonder had finished and a hardcore weekend of drinking was almost done; an early Friday afternoon main stage gig at Summer Sundae when Clock Opera were a man down and I was deep in argument with my girlfriend of the time. These are the things I remember now.
But it wasn’t until the following year that I started to write about music. Clock Opera missed out – not that my endorsement would have ultimately counted for much.
It’s a Saturday afternoon and I’m struggling. I’ve stayed in London for the weekend, largely because I need to get some committee papers produced for the day job. The work is arduous; I tackle it distractedly. It’s the best way to get through this.
I plan to keep working and so deliberately choose not to have a scan at local London gig guides for the night. But, during a particularly testing paragraph, I crumble and search. Clock Opera play the Lexington tonight, a ten minute walk from this guardianship. I am tempted.
I send the band a cheeky FB messenger message asking if I can come and review. They’ll be busy preparing for the gig, I think. They won’t see my message and even if they do they have every right to discard the request of a blogger with less than six years of writing experience. I’m overjoyed and confess to doing a little dance around my room when a positive note comes back. I ditch the work immediately and drink some wine.
Oh Baby are the support for the evening. They are a two piece that indulge in an industrial light form of electronica. They have a gadget in so much as they press play on a reel to reel tape when they take to the stage. It’s hard to tell from a distance if this makes a difference to the sound at all or if the effect is marginal. The fine singer cracks some angular dance moves before picking up a rickenbacker guitar to sing a chorus of ‘this is not your fault’. The chap standing next to me thinks they sound a little like Roxette. I tell him that this is harsh but concede privately that he has a point. Oh Baby are one of those duos I’ll have to see again to make my mind up about. I guess this is no bad thing.
Clock Opera are road-testing a fair bit of new material tonight. They’ve got a new album, Carousel, that’s imminent and that’s what bands do. The core elements remain (even if some original band members don’t) and Guy’s voice sounds as incredible as it ever did back in the day. Clock Opera are the Bastille that it’s ok for fans of more complex pop to like. They still have that insane ability to bleed every ounce of sound from a venue, to make it feel as if the electronic bleeps and beats are wrapping you up in a noise cocoon.
Guy recalls the time when they last played at the Lexington. It was for a small company (Spotify) showcase. “Whatever happened to them?“, he quips. I guess most of the crowd here tonight are stalwarts of Clock Opera’s history and are all thinking how time has flown and things have changed. Andy West, former bass player of Clock Opera stands in the crowd and gets a nod from Guy as he picks up that particular instrument, ever the multi-tasker. “We miss you Andy“, he says.
There’s undoubtedly still a place for Clock Opera in the world of complex pop. The likes of Everything Everything will surely acknowledge that. For a moment, time stands still when the band launch into ‘Once And For All’. We’re all transported back to when we first experienced that tune live. It still sounds fresh and world-beating. My papers will be easier to write tomorrow.