Like Clockwork is easily one of the most confusing artists I’ve ever encountered in my nearly eight years of writing Independent Clauses. I discovered him years ago as a lo-fi artist churning out tunes in a variety of genres. I guardedly praised his work, then waited for more. Since then, things got weird. There have been rumors of albums, double albums, and even triple albums. I’ll occasionally receive a single e-mailed to me with no text, just the mp3. Sometimes there’s a PR guy involved. Sometimes there’s not.
As of late, he has dramatically improved his vocals and reinvented himself as electronics-backed dance-rocker. His last two dispatches in this vein, “Oh My God!” and the most recent “Hands Up!”, are both awesome. But after rumors of all this material yet to be released, his iTunes page still only holds testament to a handful of singles, a couple EPs, old albums, and collaborations. Jesse Astin is a head scratcher, for sure.
But that doesn’t mean that “Hands Up!” is. On the contrary, it’s quite straightforward. A head-bobbing beat complete with handclaps forms the base for burbling synths. Astin’s assured, snarky vocals come in bright and clear over the beats and bring in the chorus, which is appropriately huge. There’s synths, guitars, backup singers, and guys yelling “Hands Up!” It’s a pop gem. If you don’t feel like moving when you’re listening to it, you’re probably no fun. Cause this song is just ridiculously fun. Mid-tempo, glee-filled, pop-techno fun. I’d check it out at iTunes; it’s worth your ninety-nine cents. And until the next Like Clockwork album appears, this is what we got.
I’ve been following Like Clockwork for a long time. Jesse Astin, the driving force behind the band, has always had a unique vision for his songs. Sometimes this is awesome; sometimes it’s just confusing. “Oh My God!”, a new single off upcoming album These Are All Things is no different.
It is different in the fact that this is the most accessible thing I’ve ever heard Like Clockwork make: the bulk of this song is a indie-pop techno ditty, a la Postal Service. The vocals are in turns sneering and vulnerable, but always clear and confident. The song’s melodies are all clever and immediately memorable, inspiring multiple listens. The only problem is that there are some weird extra bits in the song that drag it in weird directions. I don’t say they drag it down, but with their inclusion, “Oh My God!” definitely situates itself outside the canon of “normal pop songs.”
The first fifteen seconds are distorted screaming. I kid you not. It doesn’t seem like the best intro to a pop song, and to be honest, I’m kind’ve disappointed in the intro, because it doesn’t introduce the song well. Then the pop song about paranoia comes in and sticks around for a while; then a rock song denouncing America appears. The juxtaposition holds together because he says he’s worried about living in America, as “every empire must fall, and I live in America.”
But the weirdest bit of the song comes in the last minute, which is a field recording of a guy ranting about all of us being one. It’s your garden-variety “all is one! forget countries! forget religions! just be one!” street corner ranting. In addition to it being a peculiar addition to a pop song, I can’t figure out if he’s supporting or rejecting this guy’s ideas. I think he’s supporting it, but it’s not clear.
Even though it’s a bit conflicted and a tad bit confusing, it’s a mark of a good songwriter that I can write three hundred and fifty words about one song. If Jesse Astin has more songs of this caliber or better lined up in an upcoming release, I’m very excited for that release. I recommend checking out Like Clockwork’s myspace for this track.