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Album Review: Clash Bowley – Malinu

Boston, Massachusetts’ Clash Bowley is a case study in music’s appeal. He gigged, wrote, and recorded music during the mid-70s before opting to leave the music world in favor of presumably greener pastures. It’s safe to say that there were many times after that when he never envisioned returning to the fray. Forty years later, however, Bowley felt the pull again and bought a guitar in 2016.  He began playing again, essentially relearning the instrument from scratch and began writing songs. Bowley started releasing his first fledgling attempts at new songwriting in 2019 and has kept up a torrid pace since then.

BANDCAMP: https://clashbowley.bandcamp.com/album/malinu

His newest release Malinu is a 12-song collection with its central theme centered on the character Malinu, an alien girl from another planet who enjoys flirting and dancing. Saying that Bowley’s songwriting is quirky and idiosyncratic doesn’t do it justice. He follows a peculiar Muse that doesn’t respect genre but, instead, plucks creativity wherever it presents itself. He opens the release with “Clicquot Club”. Despite the synthesized guitar and spartan percussion, attentive listeners will clearly hear a song grounded in familiar fundamentals. His writing is tight and pays off from the first for listeners. Bowley’s spot-on vocal phrasing is another highlight.

The enticing rhythms of these songs are clear references to the title character’s wont to dance. “The Sphynx” boasts a low-key dance beat with unique synthesizer textures laid over the rhythm. His vocals adopt a similar low-key approach, and he works in backward-sounding guitar fills between the song’s verses. “I Felt the Fire” has a strong dance tempo as well. There’s a stronger guitar presence in the song that gives it a bite without ever overwhelming the track. It has one of the album’s strongest choruses as well.

BANDCAMP: https://clashbowley.bandcamp.com/album/lamia

“Mysterious Ways” simmers with nearly lewd longing. He pulls back the reins a little on the dance tempos defining earlier tracks, but it is still a physically engaging listening experience. There’s something almost coy about his vocals and the playful tone of his singing makes the track more enjoyable. “Sleepwalking” is one of the album’s best songs. The minimalist lyrics do an excellent job of presenting stasis verging on despair, and he reinforces the mood with a darkly atmospheric arrangement. Its melodic virtues are another strong suit of the composition.

Longing is the dominant theme once again with the penultimate song “The Last Romantic”. Bowley’s inventive musical arrangements may distract listeners from his lyrical acumen and this track deserves mention as one of the album’s finest lyrics. It has a distinct conversational tilt distinguished by an abundance of concrete details that help bring the song to life. “Forever” is a fitting conclusion for this near-conceptual release. It’s a song about leave-taking with a shattering note of melancholy introduced through its lyrics.

Clash Bowley writes, performs, and records music that’s unlike anyone else working today. You won’t be enamored of this if you prize the predictable and familiar. Bowley upends convention on Malinu while relying on tried-and-true songwriting principles to make for a highly individual and rewarding musical experience.


Lexi Johnson


About Michael Stover

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