Chris Cleverley – We Sat Back and Watched it Unfold

Album Review | Opiate Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 5/5

Chris Cleverley approaches the problem of his ‘difficult second’ head on with something bold, brave and utterly compelling.  This shouldn’t surprise me, but still it does. Having already demonstrated his credentials as a first class songwriter four years ago with his debut album Apparitions, Chris takes giant steps by exploring the current world we live in, its change in attitudes and its call for tolerance, whilst waxing lyrical on such topical questions as anxiety, gender and mental health.  With the album’s title borrowed from one of a dozen eloquently written and passionately delivered songs, the sentiment of that particular song appears to permeate throughout and perhaps questions the problem at the core of all our current woes, that we do seem to sit back and watch it all unfold, something we will surely be quizzed about by future generations.

The mature, poignant and well-developed songs tackle subjects we need to address, whilst refusing to pander to ambiguity.  If “A Voice for Those Who Don’t Have One” and “Happy and Proud” tackle such hot topics as anxiety, panic and gender with uncompromising conviction, then “The Arrow and the Armour” does likewise with matters of the heart and provides us with an example of the fact that love songs and the ways of writing them, has certainly not dried up yet.  One also has to question how bad things can get if we have to consider such eternal sunshine of the spotless mind questions as explored in “I Can’t Take It”, suggesting a pill to wipe out all our feelings and memories, which seems to be a plausible option, however catastrophic it might be in the long run. 

With Sam Kelly at the helm, the production sparkles with Chris’s informed finger-picked guitar up in the mix, especially on “Scarlet Letter”, together with some fine contributions courtesy of, among others, Evan Carson, Lukas Drinkwater, Marion Fleetwood, Hannah Martin and Kim Lowings.  If the songs and the music on this album are testament to Chris’s thoughtful and generous spirit, then providing a guide to the open tunings and indeed precisely where the budding guitarists among us should stick our capos, is above and beyond the call of duty. This is an excellent album. 

Choice Track: “The Arrows and the Armour” (NSV 487)