Massachusetts-based Clash Bowley continues his prolific ways with yet another new collection entitled Warm and Fuzzy. His idiosyncratic songwriting bears no ready comparison with his peers and contemporaries; much of this is due to the nature of the recordings, DIY affairs laid down in his home studio setting, but there’s more to it than that. He has an uniquely skewed point of view unlike other modern songwriters and a willingness, if not eagerness, to overturn listener’s expectations. A dozen songs included on Warm and Fuzzy are confirmation of that.
The opener “Rivers of Fire” relies on a stripped-down aesthetic for the bulk of the performance. His lean and economical lyrics prize specific tactile imagery over generalities and when he introduces further instrumentation to the song, it has a transformative effect. The off-kilter guitar work tailors well against the exaggerated dramatics of his vocal delivery. The title song “Warm and Fuzzy” has a lascivious leer lurking behind every line. It’s a near-guttural performance without the lyrics ever striking a crude note and attentive listeners will hear how Bowley enjoys digging into the song’s lyrics, especially its imagery.
A sense of simmering doom percolates throughout “Faithful Servant”. It’s a suitable mood given the lyrical content. Bowley amps the pace up a degree and his discordant guitar work, as angular as ever, contrasts well with his comparatively straightforward singing. He writes tight, structured lyrics that move seamlessly from one idea/image to the next. “I Lost the Sun” swirls and flames with desperation and its frantic turbulence gains a sharper edge when compared to his stentorian vocals. The restless percussion comes across like its teetering on eruption throughout the entire song.
He dabbles with dark industrial blues during the song “There is a Tide”. It has a relentless thud in the center of the song, yet its touch remains light throughout. It’s interesting to hear, as well, the definite swing underpinning the song and the odd and direct, yet effective, vocal melody elevates the song higher. “I Screwed Up” has an almost punk rock aesthetic. It’s nearly as threadbare as a lyric can be, particularly on a Clash Bowley release, but its pinpoint unambiguity will connect with listeners.
“Postmodern Life” indulges in a bit of social criticism about the perils of modern life. Bowley’s vocals have a quasi-whine in their tone, perfect for such complaints, and an unusual directness that foregoes his typical post-production effects. It’s a song that, in regard to his subject matter, proves Bowley’s concerns extend further than autobiographical reflections on dysfunctional interpersonal relationships.
There isn’t a dud among these songs. It wouldn’t be difficult to expect that Bowley’s creativity would miss more considering how much material he’s producing, but it hasn’t happened yet. There’s definitely no sign of it on Warm and Fuzzy. Clash Bowley, instead, sounds like his imaginative fires are burning as bright as ever and there’s every indication they will continue to flame high in the future. We’ll be hearing from him again soon enough. Bowley’s music is a must for anyone interested in something else than business as usual.