Spring Clock Wonder: The Great Purification (self-released)

This is one of the best local releases of 2003.

I’m always somewhat surprised when a self-released local CD sounds…well, not local, and not self-released. It’s not that St. Louis doesn’t have a slew of extremely talented bands—if we didn’t believe that, we wouldn’t have started this magazine. It’s just that local, unsigned bands are on such a tight budget that the listener’s expectations of quality are reduced even before listening.

This is just the first thing that reeled me in with Spring Clock Wonder’s first CD, The Great Purification. Beyond that, the songwriting and musical style—modern rock, to be sure, with dashes of British art-pop and psychedelia—are solidly respectable. Ian Baird’s vocals remind me of a softer, throatier Mike Edwards of Jesus Jones fame. There are even traces of Sunny Day Real Estate and Caroline’s Spine.

“I Haven’t Much to Tell You” begins gently before exploding into a U2-like guitar riff; if “Evereal” is a heavier, darker number, “Number for a Name” is downright hard rock. “Sand Swallows Earth” is a floaty, ethereal song, with Baird’s breathy voice reaching across guitar landscapes. “Drive the River” will be a radio single if there’s any justice (and just think how well it would work as a theme song of sorts for FM 101.1 the River, yes?), as it has all the necessary elements—catchy beat, memorable hooks, and words to sing along: “Leave your baggage at the door/’cause you can come just as you are/there’s no religion within here at all.” “Out in Dawn” sounds like a British rock song (though Baird’s Greenville is nowhere near the U.K.).

On “Ghost,” Baird gives us a lovely falsetto; the title track, meanwhile, is majestically rocking and very, very British (honestly…how do they do that?). “See You at the Show” slows the pace with fret-heavy strumming and a gentle beat. The dreamy “Arjuna’s Conversation,” the disc’s closer, is where the art-pop comes in; more soundscape than rock song, this dreamy track lays gifts at our feet that sound as if they were crafted of exotic stringed instruments—and not just six guitar parts recorded on an old eight-track cassette machine. This is one of the best local releases of 2003.

The Great Purification is available locally at CD Warehouse, Vintage Vinyl, and Slackers or online at www.springclockwonder.com.

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