Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
A character that we're introduced to in the title track of the Florida band Clock Hands Strangle's latest full-length album, "Distaccati," is no one in particular, but instantly engrossing and memorable. It's someone called "the unmoved mover" and he's found someone on the top of a mountain stop or a steep hill, overseeing the veins and people below and he's "laughing to tears," stunted by it all, unable to feel any kind of passion for them. It's a description of a main character that's supposed to symbolize the essence of the entire record's embodiment, the thesis of the band this time around and the archetype of the detached society they're writing for and about. One line from Federico Fellini's 1960 film "La Dolce Vita" is quoted on the band's MySpace page and it's illuminating when thinking about this unmoved mover and the scope of a record by a band of heavy thinkers and tinkerers of folk music turned into a ragtag batch of artsy, punky potpourri. In short, the character Steiner talks about loving each other outside of time and urges that it's necessary to "live outside of passion, beyond sentiment," and maybe it's these circumstances that lead one to an immovable heart or maybe it's a failure of being able to disassociate from another of the flesh and blood so that keeps a heart stagnant. It's the conundrum that Clock Hands Strangle and lead singer Todd Portnowitz digs into on "Distaccati." As that unmoved mover is crying, but laughing, the line is sung, "And pointing a camera/He says I don't have a script/So I want you to act terrified, but tranquil/Pretend you're on a ship that's going down/You know your life is gonna end/And count up from one to ten/And we'll put the words in your mouth later/We'll put the words in your mouth later/We'll put the words in your mouth laterÉ." And it goes on as if the person realizing that their life is going to end is recognizing a far greater depression and that is that our mouths and tongues can be and might be reanimated after death to get us to say and express words that were never ours, but of the general consensus. It's a mind-fucking sort of song that recalls the agitated state of Isaac Brock in "Bukowski," when he sings about God and Charles, the writer, "Well all that icing and all that cake/I can't make it to your wedding, but I'm sure I'll be at your wake/You were talk, talk, talk, talkin' in circles that day/When you get to the point make sure that I'm still awake, OK?/Went to bed and didn't see why every day turns out to be a little bit more like Bukowski/And yeah, I know he's a pretty good read/But God who'd wanna be?/God who'd wanna be such an asshole?" Clock Hands Strangle find ways into these existential realms that feel spontaneous and they give their songs a sensibility that makes them feel as if they could jump the tracks, completely unbalanced, but still remain well-constructed enough and thought out enough to never deconstruct. Just as Portnowitz sings about a character on "Distaccati," the songs live "like a screw unscrewed on the other side," and that's not such a bad place to be.
Clock Hands Strangle MySpace Page
Chocolate Lab Records