The Story Of Weirdo Pop Auteurs Clor’s Deranged, Hilarious Debut Album, 10 Years On

British indie was in fine fettle in 2005: Bloc Party and Kaiser Chiefs released their classic debuts, following equally sound first albums from Razorlight and The Ordinary Boys the previous year. But beneath the blokey bombast, a new crop of excellent synth weirdos was blossoming, like Tom Vek, Late Of The Pier and the divine Clor. Led by singer Barry Dobbin and guitarist/keyboardist Luke Smith, the five-piece formed after deciding they should play some original material at their south London club night, Bad Bunny. After just six gigs, they signed to Regal, releasing the ‘Welcome Music Lovers’ EP in 2004, and their sole album a year later. Here’s the story of the album that started it all.

The story behind the sleeve

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A mystery. In the video for ‘Outlines’, a superimposed, monochrome Clor play against the yellow criss-crossed background. The sleeve notes credit the art to Dobbin and his girlfriend Rachel Reupka.

Five facts

1. Dobbin described his songwriting aims as wanting to “keep the lyrics kind of ambiguous and provocative”, saying he was inspired by Brian Eno’s philosophy that the voice is just another instrument.

2. Drummer Harry Bennet and bassist Max Taylor were poached from Roots Manuva’s live band.

3. Previously, Smith had been an in-house composer at Game Boy. He started working there at 19, writing music for the video game adaptations of Indiana Jones and Star Wars.

4. Smith and Dobbin wrote all of the music for Clor’s debut on a computer, and then got the rest of the band to replicate it in the studio – aka the cold back bedroom of Smith’s south London flat.

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5. Following the success of single ‘Outlines’ (in like a bullet at Number 43), Clor were asked to write a jingle for Chappies, South Africa’s leading bubble gum brand. They turned it down.

Lyrical analysis

“I was in love but that was yesterday/Now I’m in pain and it’s here to stay” – ‘Love + Pain’: “It’s a basic love song,” explained Dobbin. “You know: giant bear meets tiny hairy woman, they fall in and out of love, she steals the honey, etc. He gets lost and found, the usual tale all told through the medium of rock guitars, soulful drums and heavy, heavy vocals.”

“Tendencies have been reported/This is how you link to humans” – ‘Garden Of Love’: Clor’s songs tend to treat love as a fairly alien phenomenon, to be handled from a distance while wearing safety gloves.

“Let’s hold back small parts of ourselves for the future” – ‘Tough Love’: Clor’s imagery often played with technology: phone cables and digital glitches. Myspace and Facebook were in their nascent stages when ‘Clor’ came out, but they were eerily prescient of our current era where digital privacy is at a premium.

What we said then
“An antidote, should you want one, to the let-it-all-out emotional blokeism of Oasis and the oak-lined authenticity of The White Stripes; the sound of a group goofing off because sometimes that’s what life demands.” Louis Pattison, NME, July 23, 2005

What we say now
Severely underrated British weirdo pop auteurs: their visual aesthetic was deranged and hilarious, and their songs shone with the unselfconscious influence of Prince, Kraftwerk, Le Tigre and Daft Punk across a single near-perfect album.

Famous fan
“There is something so simplistic about all the sounds and arrangements but they all work so well, I guess they prove the point that you don’t have to cover music in lots of dense layers if the song or original idea is good enough in the first place.” Theme Park

In their own words
“It’s pop songs, but quirky pop songs. Of course we want to subvert pop. All the best pop stuff is like that. Brian Eno – it’s the kind of music that makes you think, ‘Why do I like that?’” – Barry Dobbin

The aftermath
Clor split in 2006, claiming they were “unable to reconcile the yin and yang of wanting to be both wildly creative and chart-bothering” (though there were rumours one of them had a hamstring injury and could no longer perform as easily). Dobbin formed Barrington, and Smith became an in-demand producer: he did Foals’ ‘Total Life Forever’, Slow Club’s ‘Paradise’ and Everything Everything single ‘Photoshop Handsome’ among others, and was creative director of Lily Allen’s 2014 live show.

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