The year is only two and a bit months old, and here at Monkey Kettle Towers we’ve already heard two full-length, professionally produced albums by local musicians which would be nailed-on Album Of The Year contenders in most years – but the fact they’ve come so early on in 2011 makes me agog about what else we may get to hear this year from the local circuit!
Reasonably soon, Phil will be regaling us with his thoughts on The Artist Formerly Known As Project Wolverine, but in the meantime let me wax enthusiastic about “No Love Lost” by the always exciting Final Clearance.
Obviously my hopefully-not-too-creepily-oversold love for their sound has already been covered here on The Dudebox, but this set of songs recorded at The Lodge Studios in Northampton sounds as polished, well-produced and textured as pretty much anything I have ever heard by a “Milton Keynes Band”. Perhaps the most telling moment was when the jaw-dropping “Synth Song” came on my mp3 player’s random shuffle while walking to work and for the first time ever with a local band I didn’t realise I wasn’t listening to a commercially released label act. It was only when I looked at the track display that the penny dropped. This wasn’t a Killers or Depeche Mode album track I’d forgotten I had – this was the work of an ambitious band from my very doorstep.
And that’s not to say that they sound derivative, either – in fact they’re possibly harder to pin down to a genre than any other local act. It’s indie-rock, sure, but it’s not the usual metal-tinged or punk-edged standards (though it does rock out in places: “Deadly Obsession” kicks in furiously and “Rebound” stamps along with great big seven-league boots), rather FC are occasionally folky, sometimes poppy, even Soulful once in a while.
Tom assures us he’s far happier with the songs on this – their second full album – which reflect a more mature place in his life than their previous work, but to me that’s always been one of the reasons to dig Final Clearance most of all among their contemporaries. Their sound is “Grown-Up” without being dull. In a scene where most bands have split up by the time they’re 20 it’s so refreshing to hear what comes next. Their song-writing, both Tom’s lyrics and musically as a band, is genuinely very very good. From the rumble of the drums and the choppy guitars which kick off “In This World” via the solid drive of the bass parts to the wistful piano which heralds “Sleeping” and the imperious organ which opens and underpinned the empassioned finale "Hush". They’re all extremely tight performers. You can tell they’ve been playing together as a unit for some time, that tightness don't come easy.
Of course of course of course, the haunting voice of the violin calls out to me always too, turning my heart to mush. There’s cello which hits me deep in the chest as well, courtesy of prolific orchestratess Nicole Collarbone. And trombone too! You wouldn’t get that on any tracks by this year’s latest screamo teens. Except possibly if they were skacore!
Not only are the production values of the actual music worthy of superlative praise, but the whole package is slick, professional and in this latter-day world of downloads and streaming still a CD artifact worth buying: lyrics, photos, a full-on proper insert booklet like there used to be. Cool.
On “No Love Lost” Final Clearance have set the bar very high indeed. I hope we hear plenty more from them over the next few years, I think they genuinely could have a chance of going somewhere way beyond the borders of MK – and I’m honestly looking forward to watching them try. In the meantime, you really really should try and hear a copy of this album. For real.