(The layering sounds of this record seep further in to your soul every time you play it. No doubt his amazing gig in Fitzroy two days before Christmas helped its subjective jump to my favourite record of the year... BUT it was actually on Christmas Eve, listening to it on vinyl... when I screamed out the triumphant last lines, "So come on rivers/Take us to the sea,” that I realised its hold on me... 4 Northern Irish albums top my pile... what a year for our wee country...)
Back in 2005 when I was a radio DJ with some clout on the Belfast scene someone slipped me a CDR marked Clemo. I was told not to tell anyone. Oh dear I just did! They were demos from Six Star Hotel boy David Clements. I hoked it out last week when David C Clementsreleased his debut solo album, a whole decade later. For a few years people have been telling me that I would love David C Clements.People whose opinion I respect. As I have argued, The Longest Day In History hasn’t been rush job!
This is a mature and carefully constructed piece of work. It is layered in arrangement, in production and in the lyrics. It is a layered testimony to one young man’s life. It is about growing up, leaving naivety behind, discovering that life is not so much about flying on wings as eagles but more a crawling through the muck of a life whose hopes gets battered, faith gets questioned and where love needs hung on to even when you don’t feel like you can.
This week I had the album playing in the car on the school run. As we left the driveway Caitlin said, “Is this Iain?” Our girls know their Iain Archer and are quick to recognise sounds and voices. I don’t think Caitlin got it wrong here. In Clements’ early days making music Iain Archer was the highest standard of Belfast music. If he took time off writing for Jake Bugg, James Bay and Steve Mason then this is the kind of record he might make.
There are traces of Archer’s Magnetic North and To The Pine Roots here. It is contemporary in its soundscapes. You might think The National or even Sigur Ros in its atmospheric crescendos. Yet, beneath it all, it is more like Jason Isbell; the song is the core of this album’s soul. Gary Lightbody might call Clements’ Belfast’s Springsteen. I stick with Isbell; more contemporary. Yet Archersupersedes them both.
Like Archer and Isbell, David C’s lyrics need time. They are poetic, deep and at times ambiguous. I listened to the record on a car journey on a dark night and the flickers of light in the dark seemed a perfect visual companion. I found myself pondering two things; what these songs are about, line after line, and what my life is about, every line opening up those thoughts.
There’s a lot of fear, loss and making sense of a future on here and an awful lot of seeking home. I was taken by the first lines of Afraid Of The City
“Well I felt that winter on the night before
And I lost my summer and I lost the Lord
I get pain in the back of my head
When I hear the chord
Don’t want to hear those songs about getting it right
When I keep getting wrong”
I’m Still Alive has the beautiful: -
“Sometimes at night
The sound of the forest choir
Echoes through the pine, a song from a different time
Just like after the flood
That came in the form of a dove
Now it's in the tone of your voice
Oh when it called for us
'Cause I can hear the words coming down
They're singing "I'm still alive”
And in the end there is hope and love and peace in Hurricane’s epic conclusion:
“So we gather up our autumn sins as winter stole our colours
And we put all of our matches to our hearts we kept in boxes
And we watched the colours take our mothers
Sisters may we know what love is
Love us till we're lovers just as fire turns to colours
We observe the streets and rivers as our thoughts turn
To our fathers just as we began to see you flow like rivers to the seas
And we imagine how our father sees our lives as short as day
And we remember all the day could bring
So come on rivers
Take us to the sea”
The songs are so strong, the melodies so incessant, the words so stimulating. It has been slow to get out and it is a slow burn that seeps in. Worth the wait!