By Phil Scarisbrick
Former Talk Talk man, Paul Webb, took a whopping seventeen years to follow up his solo debut, Out of Season, that was made with Portishead’s Beth Gibbons. Now, barely a year after the rather brilliant Drift Code, he returns with a new collection: Clockdust.
Like Drift Code, Clockdust is flavoured with nostalgia and reflection, and shares an uncomfortable, twisted beauty with David Bowie’s final magnum opus, Blackstar. Lead single Jackie’s Room rumbles along with Hammond organ and guitar interchanging with a lazily looping drum riff, before bursting into life with layered vocals. Kinky Living bounces in a similar vein too, but with a heightened sense of menace and playfulness. Off kilter ukelele sits beneath the verse before a horns drenched chorus comes alive.
The solitary piano that sits beneath Webb’s vocal on the album’s opener, Carousel Days, is instantly brighter than anything on Drift Code, but when it gets going, the layered vocals and extra instrumentation adds a layer of complication. Almost like he isn’t allowing himself to be completely happy or content. Night In the Evening has elements of sixties psych groups Traffic and Love littered all over it, as it ebbs and flows around the vocal; the seven minute track feeling like it exists of itself and seperate to the rest of the record, although the now familiar Webb drawl ties it in wonderfully.
Whether or not former band mate, Mark Hollis’ untimely demise had any part to play in Webb’s thinking when constructing the content on Clockdust it is hard to say. What we hear throughout is snippets of and nods to Webb’s own past, of which Hollis was a big part. And there is something to be said for the speed in which he has come back with his third solo album, as it is a delightfully intriguing collection of songs that builds on and exceeds what he achieved last year. It may not be a Swiss Army Knife of a record, but find yourself in the right time and place, and there will be few better soundtracks this year.
Secret Meeting score: 87
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