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  • Writer's pictureJO'B

The Clockworks, The MOTH Club, 17th February 2024

We are back at the MOTH Club again for the second time this year - this time to see The Clockworks. Hailing from Galway, they were championed early in their career by Creation legend Alan McGee (see And on the seventh day, God created.....Alan McGee).

Tonight, it's me, Mrs JO'B, our friend Simon and James, a colleague of mine. James is a tad younger than us (ok, much!). Poor James will have to stand at the back with us oldies, or go moshing on his tod - I haven't moshed since The Chameleons in 2001!

The Clockworks have some cojones, sending a demo to McGee in 2019 with the message “McGee: We’re the punk rock version of the Streets.” He was interested enough to go and see them rehearsing in Galway and was blown away by frontman James McGregor's intensity (he broke the mic-stand apparently during this rather important "audition"). McGee released some EPs by them on his It's Creation, Baby label. They have since set up their own Life And Times Recordings label, and released debut album Exit Strategy, produced by Suede legend Bernard Butler. They are a band on their way up. Nick saw them in Birmingham last week and raved about them, so expectations are high.

I've not heard the album, I have been waiting to get the vinyl - although I have given up buying vinyl for February, I crack tonight and pick up a copy at the merch stand. But I have heard enough tracks and previous singles to know it's going to be a good show. Their songs are frenetic, catchy and ambitious as fuck. McGregor is quite the wordsmith. The album has a concept, centring on a character who moves from Galway to London. Side one focuses on life back in Galway, while side 2 tells the story of his move to the big smoke, trying to fit in and discover who they really are. That's a bold move for an indie band on their debut album - concepts are normally the exclusive purview of dodgy progressive rock dinosaurs (though I confess I do love a bit of prog...). I wonder if they will be cape-wearing hippies? We will see...

First up though, support comes from Nixer, When I look for the band's website to learn a bit more about them, the internet explains rather formally that "Nixer" is Irish slang for "unreported part-time works' income, that an individual undertakes, to relevant authorities such as Revenue". This makes me giggle, thinking of my uncle Tony who certainly did some "nixing" in his time, bless him. Nixer are a bit Sleaford Mods, with some electro pounding backing while their singer really does stake a claim to The Streets' legacy. They are not my cup of tea, but they have a pretty full room in watching them. We miss the beginning but the track we walk into sound like a speeded-up Bela Lugosi's Dead by Bauhaus but with Streets-like vocals shouting over the electro-Goth backing track. They are fine but not for me. To be fair, I doubt I am for them.

It's a swift turnaround, and the soundtrack before The Clockworks come on stage includes Bunnymen and Pixies. This bodes well.

Then a distorted vocal track comes over the soundsystem as four young men take the stage with little fuss or furore. We are a little miffed that the seating booths are "reserved" but then realise that the boys' families will be here in force, so it's cool.

All thirteen tracks from Exit Strategy are played tonight, along with early single The Future Is Not What It Was and a couple of early EP tracks. The show is tight as fuck and the band motor along through their set. There are shouts of recognition, encouragement and genuine love from the sold out crowd.

There are a clutch of great Irish acts right now - Ailbhe Reddy, Grian Chatten / Fontaines DC, Inhaler, NewDad, and The Murder Capital are leading the pack (though I cannot take The Murder Capital seriously since I realised the similarity between their lead singer and Eoin McLove, the eunuch Grannie crooner from Father Ted).

The set tonight is varied, powerful, urgent, intense. Some songs have a near Joy Division feel, others give over a distinct Ride vibe. The singer is intense, focused - he even gets away with an impassioned poem before Modern City Living (All We Are). It could have come across as cheesy as fuck, but it's heartfelt, a plea to the ever-growing financial gap pushing people away from cities where they just can't live.

Throughout, the lyrics are superb - "I wandered lonely as the crowd, turns a darker shade of loud" (Deaths And Entrances), "There’s a bang bang on the door, she’s not waiting for the man any more. He knows her well, she’ll take what she can, and he’d sell water to a drowning man" (Bills And Pills), "Covet, covet, love it, covet, it’s Money money, mayday mayday I need a payday" (Mayday Mayday)...the list goes on.

Mrs JO'B thinks that every girl who fell in love with Paul Mescal in Normal People is going to fall for this band. I feel those people may be gutted when they realise Mr Mescal is dating the fabulous Phoebe Bridgers...but there are a few Mescal-lites in the room. Not sure they are nailing the look.

They skip the farce of going off stage for the encore, just powering through 16 songs in 75 minutes. My only criticism would be the guitarist and bass player don't seem quite sure what to do, and whilst their playing is never less than excellent, there is a bit of channelling the old David Gray head wobbling and jittery, Ian Curtis dancing, even a bit of guitar hero gurning - there's no need lads, just keep focused on the playing. James, their singer has no such issues, looking like his life depends on being up on stage.

The killer tracks tonight are Bills And Pills, Mayday Mayday, Westway and the closing double whammy of The Future Is Not What It Was and Enough Is Never Enough. The latter with its "these fingers were made for pointing" chant is a killer finish, the crowd going bonkers.

On the basis of tonight, The Clockworks are way ahead of all of the current crop of Irish bands. Fontaines DC may have the sales, but one album in Clockworks have the momentum, the maturity and the songwriting chops to really leave this crowd behind. And they don't need any parental patronage from Bono to make it. The likes of Noel and Liam Gallagher should be taking these guys on tour - the only reason they aren't is they are scared they will be blown away.

Stay safe, and if you enjoyed this, please subscribe (see link below), x.

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