I am a believer that all art is subjective. No one thing is ever truly better than another; everything is valued according to the meaning we project onto it. Perhaps I have found an exception: Clarence Clarity’s new project, THINK: PEACE. Be under no illusion, no matter what you may believe, this is without a doubt, objectively, empirically, very, very bad. If you were hoping for a repeat of No Now, you certainly got it. Freshly copied and pasted in every element from his previous project, then remixed with all the technical know-how of a 12-year old, Clarity delivers a series of cuts that grow progressively weaker vocally, instrumentally and, bafflingly, even in track naming.
In Clarence’s defence the opening 20 seconds of this record are sensational, and I genuinely believed I was about to listen to the greatest thing ever. Then the distortion faded away, and what was left was a meandering vocal whine, over a soundscape punctuated sparsely with pop motifs from the mid-2000s. As the tracks progress, we reach ‘W€ Chang£’, which may not be the album’s lowest point, but is about the moment the discerning listener will realise that they’re hearing something truly, truly awful. The track itself is a mixture of bizarrely cartoonish beats mixed in with Clarence’s best Justin Timberlake impression, not to forget a jaw-droppingly out of place set of Christmas effects. Sleighbells, squeaking, springy back-beat – the works. At some point the record executive has obviously heard this album, realised what it had on their hands, and decided to drown out all the music with a thick bassline, all in the hopes that it blots out the really bad bits. The end result is a wall of noise that manages to be impenetrably dense, but overly simplistic.
Now, I am myself a fan of minimalism. There’s nothing I love more than when an artist strips back the layers of auditory ornamentation – the snares, the horns, the frill – to produce a more honest and direct piece of art. I believe that’s what Clarity had in mind when he released numbers like ‘Naysayer, Magick Obeyer’. What he consistently fails to register, however, is that simple and repetitive do not automatically equate to good. His objective, it seems, was to construct these simple back-beats around his own lyrics and vocal arrangements, in order to showcase the development of the latter two. Issues arose however, when the producer clearly did not factor these into his considerations. Firstly, he can’t sing a lick. Second, he can’t write songs. His vocals truly are very sub-par in many places, and as often as he mistakes the minimal for the simple, he deludes himself into believing that saying words with emphasis constitutes singing.
My harsh observations aside, Clarity’s project does have elements that are of some merit. His concept – and this is, in its own stunted way, a concept album – of reflecting upon the tropes and trends of popular music in the mid-2000s is interesting and successful to some extent. That is to say, if someone asked me for an example of all the styles of the last two decades of mainstream music, I would point them to this project. Clarence collects the musical fragments of the noughties, dubstep, Christina Aguilera, Timberlake, and elements of novelty music, all sprinkled with trap, to synthesise what some will consider a more intellectual form of pop music.
I’m very much aware that I am largely alone in my take on this record. Think: Peace, where it has been reviewed, has been incredibly well received. There’s a part of me that wonders if my own feelings for the project are in some way tainted by a form of cultural snobbery, a malaise in my psyche that won’t allow me to enjoy this music, from which others seem to derive so much joy.
And so I leave you, the reader, with a simple summation. If you enjoy a more self-conscious approach to pop, whatever the sonic implications may be for that, this record is for you. If you enjoy originality, and don’t really want to hear Christmas music in October, I’d give this a miss.
Think: Peace is out now.
By Jarlath Nolan