Clock Hands Strangle’s debut, Redshift/Blueshift, was hailed by many (including me) as brilliant, but criticized by others as derivative. And if that was the general reaction to their first album, I can only predict an even more intense divide over Distaccati, the band’s sophomore release. Even more so than album one, album two combines elements of classic “important” rock (think and Bob Dylan) with the major elements of “important” indie (think , , and ), by making introspective, often obtuse songs with lyrical references to esoteric literary glitterati and intricate weaving between vocals and instruments.
Not content to simply an “indie” band or to write an “Americana” songbook, Clock Hands Strangle jump fearlessly from complex long-form songs to simpler, acoustic meditations on a single theme. This may make the band hard to classify, and may similarly make it harder for them to find their audience.
The band is at their best when they do their own thing, which sounds a little like old indie Modest Mouse but without the screaming, and is less than their best when they try to do Bob Dylan’s thing, such as on “To A Meteorite In A Museum,” which is clearly a tribute to Bob’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” era. That isn’t to day that Clock Hands’ acoustic earnestness is bad, it’s just less good than the rest of their material, mainly because it sounds a little forced and, yes, a little derivative. This band doesn’t have to borrow from its heroes—they have enough musical chops and lyrical skill to form their own dynasty. But this is a minor criticism: Overall, Distaccati is on my short list for a top ten album of the year; it showcases a variety of skills without sacrificing a conceptual “sound,” so that the album, when listened to in its entirety, sounds more like an essay than a collection of thoughts. Not too many
bands can successfully pull off a true “album” of this kind anymore, and that’s too bad.