Alarm Clock Conspiracy 2014
Out of trouble and into a comedy of masks, North Carolina quartet put on an impressive show.
This band’s second album had an inauspicious gestation period: the label who’d signed ACC on the strength of their 2012’s debut, cut the funding for “Harlequin” mid-recording. Yet the quartet’s self-belief was bolstered by an Indigogo campaign, and the result is worth the effort. Its cover might scream prog, while behind the artwork lies chequered, muscular and often jolly – just like the titular character sung about in a deliberately Dylanesque manner in a vibrant ballad – pop-rock with an indie bent. It takes going through the effervescent Americana of “Skygazer,” welcoming the listener to the group’s universe, to see it and get wrapped in the sweet guitar-and-voices web provided by Chris Carter and Ian Reardon.
Still, safety net it isn’t, although the catchy harmonies of “Sly Simmons” possess a mighty crunch, and “Reginald Day Is Here” rocks rather sweetly, because there’s no escape from the lyrical trap of “On,” whereas the upbeat “Creatively Losing Expression” slides into a dewy-eyed desperation. Counterbalancing this sadness, “Thinking Of” offers a ’60s-spirit swirl of innocence which spills into “To My Lost Friend” that’s sprinkled with Randall Bramlett’s honky-tonk piano, before his organ on the closing blues of “Something Tells Me” evaporates the tears to leave a lasting aftertaste. In commedia dell’arte, it’s Harlequin, after all, who’ll tell you the truth no matter how bitter it might be, and the truth stays on when the masks are off. A wonderful performance.