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Alarm Clock Conspiracy: Harlequin
Alarm Clock Conspiracy - Harlequin CD Album Review

Alarm Clock Conspiracy: Harlequin

Melodic Rock

Coming out of Asheville, North Carolina, and putting a twist on typical Southern music, is Alarm Clock Conspiracy with their second album, Harlequin. While you can wrap your head and ears around their music, a description can be somewhat fleeting.

Alarm Clock Conspiracy Harlequin Photo

Alarm Clock Conspiracy

The larger category would be simple melodic rock twisted with some country music nuances ala mandolin, pedal steel and such. This in turn is enlightened with nice melodies, surprising sublime vocals and vocal harmonies, and some catchy power-pop hooks in both lyrics and arrangements. Song writing, composition and musicianship is at a premium also. The band draws from a variety of influences, from The Beatles to The Police, from Tom Petty to Foo Fighters. The album was recorded in John Keane Studios, famous for the likes of REM, The Indigo Girls, and others, so I can't help to think that that atmosphere give them some inspiration as well. At times, ACC reminds me of an East Coast version of Poco or Pure Prairie League. But on second or third thought, that's probably a reach.

Digging into the album, I found the songs to sway, sometime awkwardly, between that power-pop melodic rock and something, well, more lazy and sleepy. For example, at the start Skygazer and Got My Mind Made Up are relatively upbeat, almost with a feeling the 'rock' is being held back, in reserve as it were. Then Harlequin and Hard Driving Wheel spin slower in that lazy sleepy pace. Frankly, the latter seemed to drone on to the point of boredom. The following Thinking Of is also subdued, rescued mostly by the understated vocal harmony. Interest returned with To My Lost Friend, thanks to the bounce of that piano and the lifting groove. It reminded my of a cross between The Beatles and Little Feat, if you wrap your head around that.

More subtle stuff follows, and again you feel that ACC is intentionally holding back, as if they're afraid to unleash their inner rock gods. Then with On arrives and you feel somebody might kick out the jams. Close. You have to wait for the following Reginald Day Is Here for the ACC to rock out. It's a gritty song with twisted razor riffs. The remainder of the album bumbles along like the majority of the album: do we rock out or not, or just be mellow. The final cut, Something Tells Me, is a desperately depressing, immensely slow churning, quasi-blues number that simply drags down the entire album. As said earlier, inspiration, creativity, song composition and musicianship are the strengths of Alarm Clock Conspiracy. But what results from those elements didn't always appeal to me. Check them out for yourself. You may have a different opinion.

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In Short

With Harlequin, Alarm Clock Conspiracy puts a power-pop twist to their southern and country inspired melodic rock with interesting and not so interesting results.

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