FOR anyone still seeking to define the “Sheffield sound” The Cuckoo Clocks present something of a conundrum.
In a city long-heralded for electronic output this eccentric collective tender a pastoral, human-sounding alternative that smacks of an era long gone.
It was initially the brainchild of Paul Infanti (Treebound Story, Woodwork) and DJ/producer Sophie Toes. He caught her DJing, liked what he heard; she in turn heard Paul playing an acoustic cover of Human League’s Love Action on the radio.
Connection established they usurped possible expectations to hone something gentle, rustic, naive even.
“It’s quite raw in some ways. It’s got an honest sound to it, not sanitised Radio 1 production,” says Paul, whose voice is a less forceful Lou Reed topping arrangements that remind of former Barnsley band Tiny Dancers with a dash of Gomez.
Debut album The Madness Of Order suggests they draw from otherworldly sources for inspiration, however. Take the Club 60-filmed video for opening track Odd Per Clock.
“Yes, we’re quite into an other worldliness thing and in the video it’s a sort of time-travelling band. We used the idea of them being observers of where we are now, in a very materalistic world. We follow this lifestyle and even when we achieve everything that lifestyle says we could achieve we get disillusioned, things don’t seem quite as right.
“It’s because we’re missing some kind of spirituality. I don’t mean in a hippy dippy, religious way, but some kind of meaning in life. That’s where the tittle comes from, The Madness Of Order; we live this ordered life and when it breaks down we don’t know what’s going on. It’s that kind of mysticism we’re missing.”
Songs like Mum’s On Coke can be taken on two levels. “That’s a midlife crisis kind of song. You’ve got everything - the dream - but you’re not happy.
“It’s sold to us as the norm and we don’t see it; a lifestyle that’s a bit like a square hole but us humans are like a round peg and we’re trying to force our way through. That square hole might be beneficial for a small percentage of people in the world. For the rest of us it’s a bit of a struggle and a bit of a lie.”
At times the lyrics may seem random and the musical coating too obscure to retain attention but the overall package is something intelligent that craves (proper summer) picnics with friends; an under-stated thing of smartly restrained elegance and musical mischief.
The Clocks has since evolved into a sextet that live includes Andrew Flude – drummer for Fleetwood Mac veteran Peter Green – and Human League’s Nicky Burke on bass.
“We’ve had quite a few different people getting involved,” confirms Paul. “It’s an extended family really and it’s been a bit of a journey.”