Clock Opera have a great little track record in Cambridge. Their first headline show here back in the old Portland era was one of those had to be there nights. So much so it was still being discussed in the smoking area pre-show tonight. Following on from that night they wowed again back in 2012 when they brought their newly released ‘Ways To Forget’ debut to a now larger Portland. Their set that night was a glorious tribute to the glory of weird, avant pop. Fittingly tonight saw the acknowledgment that the independent promoter who brought Clock Opera to Cambridge for both of those nights was celebrating their sixteenth year in operation, well done Simon.
It’s been a tumultuous five years since for Clock Opera, complete with line up adjustments and delays in releasing new material whilst finding a label. Tonight however sees the band on the opening night of a new tour, sharing their new record in a live setting for the first time. ‘Venn’ was released earlier this month and sees the four-piece entering new and exciting territory of sound.
Naturally most of tonight’s set draws from their sophomore release. ‘Venn’ marks a darker shift in lyrical tone with the thumping set opener ‘Closer’ exploring themes of paranoia and conflict. The track adopts a more mathy sound than we’ve heard from Clock Opera before, showing the band has a “rock-out” side too which flows nicely into the politically charged ‘Dervish’. ‘Dervish’ fizzes with electronic glitches shimmer alongside the tune’s mournful melody which leads into the spiritual ‘Hear My Prayer’. This is followed by Venn’s opening cut, ‘In Memory’ which casts a mid-tempo grandiose over the gripped audience. ‘Changeling’ was the first track to surffice from ‘Venn’ back in late 2015, it was the first indications of a shift into a darker, more rhythm-led sound. ‘Changeling’ fills the Portland with ominous loops of clanging bells and atmospheric synths creating a robust synth pop noise, standing out as one of the better received newer numbers. The album’s lead single, the majestic ‘Whippoorwill’ has the tightest grip on tonight’s crowd. The live setting seems perfectly ripe for this stark pop number which is a lush mix of subdued keys and crispy percussion tied neatly with frontman Guy Connelly’s faultless falsetto.
Whilst ‘Venn’ offers a darker sound it is the euphoric, melodramatic pop numbers from debut record ‘Ways to Forget’ that draw the big receptions on the night. Leaving five years between records risks the danger of memories fading but this was defiantly dispelled this evening with the four-piece’s quirky and ambitious earlier material being devoured. Chop-pop big hitters ’Once and For All’ and ‘Belongings’ drew on the crowd as added backing vocals whilst ‘Lesson No 7’ was started only after a promise that we won’t have to wait five years for the next Clock Opera instalment.