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This review first appeared in The Fly on 29/11

It’s 7pm, and we’re in Heaven. It’s very quiet, which makes sense, because main act Clock Opera isn’t on for a couple of hours. But it’s also worrying, because the very excellent support act Bright Light Bright Light is on in about 15 minutes and the place is, to be blunt, pretty dead.

Heaven’s big stage, arching brickwork and cavernous feel aren’t the most inviting venue if nobody’s there to fill it yet. That, and BLBL (aka Rod Thomas) isn’t known for being low-key – especially as he’s just finished a 2 week tour with the Scissor Sisters. Demure, Lana Del Gloom-Pop this ain’t.

In fact, BLBL specialises in endorphin-pumped pop – comparisons with Erasure and The Pet Shop Boys seem fair. It’s big, loud but introspective, which has drawn obvious comparisons with Robyn, too. By the time he takes to the stage in an excellent Hawaiian shirt (basically telling November to do one), Thomas unleashes an intense, 30-minute set peppered with big, clever songs from his debut album ‘Make Me Believe In Hope’. And with that, the crowd is suddenly ten times the size.

‘Disco Moment’ and its cathartic chide of ‘you make it so hard to be around’ has a brutal honesty among its pulsating, dizzying disco backdrop. ‘Make Me…’s lyrics are straight to the point, rarely cryptic, and show Rod at his most exposed when he’s swaddled in synth music. It’s a brilliant set, quick, intense and sudden, but BLBL’s impression lasts far longer. This is disco, soul, pop and dance music etched into the DNA of one of the most exciting and overlooked records of the year. And it’s in this cavernous room that it really shines, filling every shadowed corner and, as his name suggests, illuminating all the dark spaces.

Chris Mandle

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This interview first appeared in The Fly on May 08.

Guy Connelly is a man who has a beard, but unlike a lot of people who have beards, Guy Connelly is also an excellent musician in a musical-project-type-outfit called Clock Opera. I saw him play at Hoxton Bar & Kitchen in November, which was magic in a sort of grown up way. Then I reviewed his album in March and didn’t like it. When not discussing artichokes and double decker chains (see below) I told Guy why I found his album felt a bit uninteresting, and he seemed to find some coherence in the incoherent point I was trying to make. What a gent.

Hello Guy. Where are you right now?
I’m at St Pancras station, we’re about to do a small gig as a warm-up for Camden Crawl this weekend. We’re on this stage at 5pm, right in the middle of rush hour.

Does St Pancras have good acoustics?
It does. There’s a guy playing some music nearby, it sounds very good.

Really? Give us a live review please…
Er, yes. It’s quite ethereal, whispery… beautiful music. The whole place is very dreamy, I’m just walking along on the phone to you. Playing a gig in a station feels a bit dream-like.

When was the last time you went on a train? Apart from an underground one?
Oh man, it’s probably been a while. I remember it being a double-decker train, though, but I might be confusing it with that film I saw, where Jake Gyllenhaal had 15 minutes to stop a train bomb. You know, the one where he kept going back in time to the start of the fifteen minutes.

What!?
I can’t remember the name [it was Source Code, Films Ed], but it was like that train. I was on the bottom ‘deck’ of the double-decker train, if indeed it was real at all.

Given the options of the ‘standard’ deck and the exciting upper-deck, it seems you made a poor decision regarding where you sat on the train.
Yes, I suppose I couldn’t enjoy the view as much. Wherever I was going, I’m sure the view would have been good up at the top.

When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone?
A long time ago. I’d love to write more letters but I never have the time. When I was visiting my dad’s house though I found a sealed letter that I’d written, but never sent.

Who was the letter for?
My best friend at the time.

What does it say?
I have no idea. Maybe I should send it, and pretend it took six years to arrive. The real question is… why didn’t I send it?  Also, I found an old camera at my dad’s with the film still inside. I really want to get it developed and see what’s on there.

Can you still get photographs developed?  Maybe at Boots?
Yea. If I ever get round to it, I’ll send you one.

What did you have for lunch?
I had a posh cheese and artichoke sandwich. It was basically a cheese toastie with artichoke added. I would recommend it, I mean, it was pretty standard but the high quality ingredient was very good.

Would you recommend artichoke to The Fly readers?
I absolutely would, yes.

What does artichoke taste like?
I don’t know, that’s like asking what the colour green is to a blind man. Just have some in a salad or something.

The UK has been gripped by ‘Bank Holiday Fever’. Do you enjoy bank holidays?
I’m usually working them. I have no idea what a bank holiday is! I have to ask crowds what day of the week it is.

Are the-
Source Code! That was the film with Jake Gyllenhaal.  [We know. Smugness Ed]

Amazing. Bank Holidays are great, but what is ‘the vibe’ like at your gigs? Are the fans more excited on a bank holiday, for example?
I don’t actually think we’ve played one before. I suppose there’s that elation a having an extra day off… but a bank holiday Monday is basically a sunday night, isn’t it. There may be an air of regret, if they’ve misbehaved. I will ask them how they feel.

If you had to spend your life living one day of the week forever, what would it be?
Thursday! Every day for me is a Thursday night.

Thanks Guy!
Thanks!

This review first appeared in The Fly on September 23rd, 2011

“Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, is a night of experimentation,” says Guy Connelly, aka Clock Opera. While his words may endorse sampling a more exotic beer or eyeing up an older woman, he’s actually talking about the music at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen tonight.

Named after the brilliant intricacy of timepieces and the, err, beautiful singing of an opera, to call it an experiment would be hitting the nail on the head. Figuratively, of course, though with his knack of making everyday objects part of his percussive entourage, nail-hitting may well be on the agenda tonight. Looping vocals, splicing sounds and dissecting lyrics before winding them around themselves – these are the potions and lotions in Guy Connelly’s lab. Opening with ‘White Noise’, his sharp, icy notes slice into the still atmosphere – one-part Wild Beast-warbling with two shakes of Everything Everything’s glitchy zest.

The influence of EE’s sci-fi fused pop is also evident in ‘A Piece Of String’ – Guy’s echoing voice (“You have set me free/from analysing dreams… I love you right and wrong”) is soon bolstered by Gameboy synths and clattering drums as he begs “Teach me wrong from right! Show me black and white!” But for every instance of schizophrenic, battling beats, there’s a smattering of honest simplicity. Penultimate track ‘Belongings’ grows into a robust, sonorous sing-a-long but it starts (and ends) with a slow, woozy piano.

It’s proof that, while his trade in chopped-up pop is admirable for its complexity, and his blissful union between odd sounds is nice, it’s a testament that Clock Opera can still be captivating and stunning when the veil is lifted and we see the man behind the curtain. Quite the experiment, indeed – and all the more rewarding when it works.