Album: Clarkesville

The Half Chapter, Wildstar
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The Independent Culture

There's a bit of a vogue these days for solo artists who once would have been regarded as "singer-songwriters" to present themselves under the guise of a band pseudonym - the inevitable result, perhaps, of the boom in home computer studio technology, which affords solo operators the opportunity to overdub themselves into a band. Not that all bother: Clarkesville, for example, is the nom-de-disque of 22-year-old Brummie Michael Clarke, who secured a contract solely on the strength of a voice, an acoustic guitar, and a decent batch of material, his songs subsequently lent greater body by Swedish producer Martin Terefe's arrangements. The result, on tracks such as "Spinning", "Evergreen" and "Heavy Soul", is a series of hits that owe more to the prevailing Coldtravishead indie-pop orthodoxies than to the earnest troubadour approach of David Gray. Clarke may have a somewhat restricted range of subjects - when he's not offering anthemic encouragements to endurance such as "Someday" and "Everyone Will Have Their Day", he seems to be either yearning to get into a relationship, or desperately seeking to free himself from one. "Heavy Soul" is particularly impressive, a kiss-off song cleverly couched as self-assertiveness, the narrator claiming both partners need more space to grow; the grandiose piano-ballad pomp with which he begs escape from a smothering relationship in "Just Kills Me", meanwhile, recalls Harry Nilsson at his Schmilssonest. Elsewhere, the scudding trip-hop beats and spooky organ of "Evergreen" bear a blush of shame, as Clarke admits, "I seal my lips for fear of whom I'll betray". Insecure, guilt-ridden, and grammatically correct - what more could you want from a British indie-rocker?