Volume 93, Issue 30
Friday, October 22, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Clayton takes things personally
A debut album of both lyrical and musical genius doesn't come along too often, but Justin Clayton's Limb fits the bill on both counts.
A Liverpool native, Clayton recorded the album after signing a breakthrough deal with Ultimatum music. The effort was recorded in a remote village in Sweden, which shows through on the introspective and intimate feel of Limb.
With the opening track "Collide," Clayton combines an upbeat sound with powerful lyrics about a relationship leading to its own self-destruction. The contrast between the lyrics and the instrumentation gives the track a unique, bittersweet quality. This style lingers throughout the album and is clearly evident in the CD's best song, "Tragic."
Other highlights include "Just Like You," which embraces the listener with an intimate, haunting quality and "Sometimes Life's A Drag," which combines a trippy '70s rhythm with spacious, resonant guitars.
The lyrics on "Shallow World" deal with society's hollow fabric "I'll wish upon a wave/'til the last drop of bitterness is gone/'cause I don't understand/so help me if you can." There's a spiritual quality to this track which imbues the song with a sense of hope.
The most important quality of Limb is Clayton's personal and introspective songwriting ability. His lyrics give the album a human touch and invite listeners into his world of isolation and sadness.
If you're looking for a tough, melancholy work perfect for a rainy day, Limb may just be the one.
People who hear the soaring falsettos and guitar-heavy anthems on Showbiz and immediately dismiss Muse as another generic angst-ridden guitar band, are probably going to miss out on one of the most engaging records of the year.
Anyone who listens to this debut effort will probably concede that Muse draws from a variety of musical wells, including the ones marked Radiohead and Jeff Buckley. While being a derivative isn't exactly an admirable quality, it works to Muse's advantage. They showcase their influences just enough to add an element of intrigue and then augment it by putting their unique stamp on the songs.
The first track, "Sunburn," opens with a classical-sounding piano coda, which eventually melds into a dizzying array of distorted guitars and purred vocals. Lead single "Muscle Museum" is a vaudevillian/post-rock romp complete with frenzied vocals and frenetic drumming.
Perhaps most intriguing is "Unintended," which may very well be the best song released yet this year. It's a chilling, restrained ballad which scores extra points for its subtlety.
There are some problems with Showbiz, albeit only minor ones. The band shines brightest when they're concentrating on melody, but there seems to be slightly too much emphasis on distortion and volume. Some potentially soaring tracks are slightly muted by a predictable and unwanted kick into overdrive.
Moreover, the production feels murky and claustrophobic. While this technique works on certain tracks, it begins to spread itself thin near the end. You're left wondering how good this record would be if it only sounded a little bit less jagged.
No matter, because Showbiz is still a promising debut which marks the beginning of what will undoubtedly be a very prosperous career.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999