Brixton newcomers’ haywire robot-rock comes with added emotional charge One of the most elementary mistakes you can make in rock’n’roll is to get sucked into the argument that weirdness equals insincerity. As a case in point, take Devo, the ultimate nerds: a silly synth-pop novelty, anathema to ‘serious’ music fans. Behind the gag, however, ran a dark story. Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh revealed that a formative influence on the band was the day he witnessed a group of his classmates cut down by gunfire from National Guardsmen during a peaceful Vietnam protest on Kent State University Campus in Ohio in 1970. Devo’s self-conscious weirdness was born out of anger, sadness, confusion and humanity. Which, in a roundabout sort of way, brings us to Clor.
“Watch out/You’re entering the danger zone”, trills frontman Barry Dobbin, on the murky, synth-smeared Geiger Counter tick of ‘Danger Zone’. “We might start/Something that’s emotional…” Born out of Soho club night Bad Bunny, and now ensconced at their own Club Clor in Brixton, the five young men of Clor have made 2005’s best goofy electro-pop album. But dark impulses simmer beneath the polished chrome and plastic of ‘Clor’. Strange acts of violence take place amid the detuned crunch of ‘Making You All Mine’. Revellers quaff “poisonous juices” through straws on the jerky, bright ‘Outlines’. And the ‘Love + Pain’ spells out Clor’s troubled romantic dichotomy in barbed, binary logic: “I was in love/Now I’m in pain/I was the bird that buzzed the bees and stole the honey.”
Eh? Ah yes, because Clor are the sort of band who never leave a simple sentiment unspiked. Take ‘Hearts On Fire’ – a song about falling in love, which in Clor’s hands, becomes a springboard to a cyborg romance fantasy: “You found your way into my thought machine/You’re beating out the rhythms that I need”, sings Dobbin, as a bubbling synth slowly, seamlessly slides into an elaborate Super Furries-style psychedelic techno-stormer. That it’s followed by ‘Gifted’ – a tobacco-chewin’ country-porch lament, albeit one played by Kraftwerk’s dummies – which only sweetens the sense of sensory dislocation. Later, ‘Magic Touch’ sees Clor tapping into Prince’s mojo, crunchy beats and straight-backbone funk splattered liberally with bursts of acid blip, sheets of melancholy synthesizer and – at one bafflingly great moment – a grandiose rock breakdown where every facet of the Clor machine, from members to microchips, seem to get involved in their own individual solo.
So, ‘Clor’: 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. They might not always make sense. But even when logic gets fuzzy, the beats stay crisp, and that, Clor know, is the best way to be.