Album Review: The glorious Charlie Clark is indulging in a little ‘Late Night Drinking’ and the results are something quite spectacular.


The Breakdown

Clark's songwriting is grounded in a precise ear for melody and a prowess with a jingle jangle guitar sound: creating little vignettes that are as joyous as they are personal, and threaded with a golden band of humour and a self-deprecatory nature that sparkles throughout.
No Big Deal 9.0

Charlie Clark has a fascinating story to tell – a part of vital Scottish indie music history in indie band Astrid before decamping to lead another life in LA as a music producer and artistic entrepreneur. A few years back he returned to his native shores for personal reasons, and ended up with twins, his own record label No Big Deal Records, reforming Astrid and drip feeding a series of rather brilliant solo singles in the lead up to the release of his debut album ‘Late Night Drinking’. The album has taken a while to come into fruition – the general vicissitudes of life compounded by COVID, and the myriad of blockages that caused, lead to delays. But the wait has been worth while.

Clark’s songwriting is grounded in a precise ear for melody and a prowess with a jingle jangle guitar sound: creating little vignettes that are as joyous as they are personal, and threaded with a golden band of humour and a self-deprecatory nature that sparkles throughout.

‘Late Night Drinking’ opens up the sonic ledger. Clark says of the the track:

Late Night Drinking is the official 2nd single and title track from my debut. It was the last song I wrote for the album and it’s really about my marriage falling apart in Los Angeles.

There is a deep sense of loss and pain that cuts through the sparkling instrumentation. Sharp, crisp twelve string guitar strings jangles and sparkles while layered harmonies serve to create a shimmering and bold strike as Clark tells of late night shenanigans with a touch of melancholy and wry humour:

I was thinking, I could stay late night drinking, it’s better this way, I don’t want to be alone, I can’t go home.

This is a glorious track from Clark: immense choruses and and deep heartfelt lyrics that serve to tighten the throat and quicken the pulse. It is vital and organic music: guitar driven indie pop at its very best, augmented by a monochromatic stark visceral and raw perfomance video that is mesmerising. Alcohol and late night excess seems to seep from the pores of the musicians as well as an existential sense of loss and sadness.

Clark’s anthemic, jangling style explodes with an euphoric rush in ‘I Don’t Mind If You’re Right’. It has the vitality and sparkle redolent of bands like Teenage Fanclub and The Charlatans with a touch of Ride-era shoegaze and Oasis Britpop, but ultimately he has his own style that is self-deprecating and laced with humour.

Clark entertainingly recounts the story behind the song, that was written during his time in LA:

Some years ago, a friend of mine had asked me to write a song for a funeral. In return, they gave me a pass to The Golden Bridge, a famous yoga studio in Hollywood.  I’d never done Yoga before and waited till the pass had almost expired before I finally decided to try one class. To say I drank the Kool Aid is an understatement!  I continued to practice, study and embrace the world of Kundalini Yoga every single day in the years that followed.

There’s a real science that you can apply to your life with that particular style of yoga/meditation so life can get a little freaky when you go deep with it… it can push you beyond your limits. ‘I Don’t Mind If You’re Right’ touches more on what lies beyond that.

The essence of inner power and resilience shines through the glorious harmonies and scaling guitars. Clark has an innate ability to infuse his songs with radiant sunshine and joy, with just a touch of melancholy and yearning. The accompanying video is a delight – scratchy screens and amusing graphics with Clark a louche and insouciant star: compelling and enigmatic.

‘Acid Rain’ is a jangling, sparkling reflective track that positively shimmers. It has a wide open vista like a prairie – endless horizons and a dappling melancholia that filters throughout. It is heartbreakingly beautiful and filled with grace as Clark details the effects of heartbreak.

‘Blink of An Eye’ is further confirmation that Clark has an unerring and unfettered ear for melody and sparkle, tinged with an air of deep melancholia. Opening with an almost acapella introduction with layers of glorious harmonies that float in the air, Clark muses on the vicissitudes and temporal nature of life. As the instrumentation enters the fray, a muscular fuzzy guitar etches razor sharp chemtrails in the sky underneath an insistent pounding rhythm. It is gloriously ascendant and extremely euphoric.

‘Don’t Have A Cow, Man’ continues the humour and pop wave.

 I wrote the chorus of ‘Don’t Have A Cow, Man!’ just before moving back to Scotland from Los Angeles and finished it in Stornoway… I came home to help care for my father who was terminally ill so I had some serious s**t to get together.

This sense of rebirth and renewal positively shines and pours out of every note, every word.

I don’t know if it is intentional but the recount of drugs in the chorus recalls the pattern of Lorde’s ‘Royals’, replacing the words with a brutal list of drugs of addiction rather than recounting superficial material possessions:

Caffeine, Nicotine, Cocaine…help bring me down

I don’t want to die and be a junkie my whole life

There is a deep-seated melancholia suffused throughout the pop brilliance, the layered harmonies glow and the melodies are indelible and anthemic. There is a ray of LA sunshine mixed in with the Scottish ear for melody and brutal honesty: a cathartic release.

Clark notes that there is deliberate tension between the sounds and the themes but above all a message of hope:

A friend said it’s like ‘Sit Down’ by James on very strong sedatives! Having said all that I also wanted it to have a good groove and make people dance! It’s a slice of indie pop definitely inspired by more 60’s style pop. I hope people see it as a positive message as obviously I chose to live!”

Bird song frames the beginning of ‘Tired Heart’ which also puts on display the more poignant and delicate side of Clark – filled with yearning and a sense of exhaustion and loss. This sense is continued in ‘Find My Way Through Darkness’ which has a country lilt and roll to it. Crystalline guitars etch a trail in the sky – solemn and imperious with a wail of instrumentation howling with pain in the distance. Both tracks form an interlude of sorts – a pause amongst the sparkle to reflect a darker world.

‘No Big Deal’ is just that – a big deal. It has a spark and shimmer of the purest indie pop but this time round, there is just that little bit of Glaswegian grit that recalls The Jesus and Mary Chain: a thundering buzzsaw drive and distant, remote and arch vocals. It is something a little more carnal and raw.

This track proves Clark can take the foot off the brakes and swagger a little: infusing a little attitude and a lot of thump with the ringing, chiming guitars that are celestial and grand. As a new father and recent beneficiary of twins, Clark is not pulling on his slippers and smoking a pipe just yet: ‘No Big Deal’ is as full of noise and vitality as any newborn..

The accompanying video reminds us that that above all, Clark has an inherent sense of gentle humour – a glint in the eye for all the bravado and front of ‘No Big Deal’:

‘Stop Spinning Out’ crashes in with a high-stepping pace and glorious harmonies and Clark’s sardonic vocals, louche and poised.

Penultimate track ‘Lemon, Water and Ginger’ gently presses down on the brakes with an aching exposition before moving on to ‘A Bridge To Your Idol’ a track infused with a deeply personal narrative and an elegant finish to the album.

Indeed, this track is a heartbreaking sequel to ‘Don’t Have A Cow Man which documented Charlie giving up his life in LA to come home and care for his terminally ill father. As the inevitability of his father’s passing became clear, Clark wrote ‘A Bridge To Your Idol as an immensely moving tribute. Clark says: 

After losing our Dad last Summer and becoming a Dad just months later myself I have so much gratitude about how lucky Kevin (Clark’s brother) and I were to have such an incredible father. I’d written this song before my Dad died but with the mindset it was coming sooner rather than later… The video was filmed over the last month of Dad’s life when he had all of his family around him, which was him at his best.

The pace is elegiac and profound – Clark has captured the quintessence of mourning – the feeling of loss that is yet leavened by the celebration of the indelible impact a person can have on you. Crystalline, jangling guitars play underneath a mourning piano line while Clark’s voice drips like honey with a deep melancholy – you’re getting old, man, you’re getting old . There is just a hint of humour and a lot of love amidst amongst the raw nostalgia.

‘Late Night Drinking’ is grounded in a solid indie guitar-based pop genre with a genetic reach going back to The Byrds via The Kinks, Oasis, Blur and The Stone Roses, with nods to The Jesus and Mary Chain and Ride. But above all it stands on its own as a glorious masterclass in indie pop: sky-scraping melodies and a sense of a personal journey infused with tragedy and loss and yet emboldened by humour and strength.

It is only available through the link below. To quote Clark:

Spotify, Apple Music and other thieving bastard streaming platforms make independent music unsustainable so please help the cause by buying the record through Bandcamp.

‘Late Night Drinking’ was recorded and produced by Jason Shaw (Cambodian Space Project) and mastered by Mark Gardener from RIDE.

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1 Comment

  1. November 30, 2022
    Reply

    Charlie Clark’s singing is just lovely.

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