Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

AMNESTY 2012: Alex Clare – Too Close

Year of impact rule, readers.


Will Adams: There once was a bass patch named Wobby. Wobby liked to wobble at different rates, creating polyrhythms that made songs interesting. Not many people liked Wobby, though. They thought he was too abrasive for a pop song. But things got better in the late-aughts, when Wobby was allowed to wobble on pop songs. Unfortunately, he was never allowed to show his talent for more than a few measures. Even worse, producers began to favor his more attractive brothers, Belch and YaYa. Wobby, they would say, was just too boring for pop. This made Wobby very sad. One day, Wobby saw a nice British lad wailing away on a by-the-numbers Brit-soul song called “Too Close.” Gee, thought Wobby, he looks like he could use some help injecting some emotion into his song. He approached the lad and asked, “Excuse me, sir, are you perhaps in need of an abrasive sound to add some grit to your song?” “Why, yes, in fact,” replied the lad, “I need something to help communicate that I’m not ready for a committed relationship, and just shouting won’t do the trick. What can you do to help me?” Wobby wobbled for the lad, who beamed in response. “Oh, this is perfect! Now everyone will know how intense my emotion is!” Wobby couldn’t help smiling. Finally! Someone accepted him in all his wobbling glory! “Ok, we better get going, then,” said the lad. “One last thing: Could you fade out awkwardly whenever the chorus ends?” Wobby nodded his head with vigor and replied, “With pleasure!” And they both lived happily ever after.

Iain Mew: So the new Internet Explorer offers a feature where you put in a bare minimum of details about your relationship and it automatically generates a crap breakup email for you? Have I got that right?

Andy Hutchins: One of the many problems with critically engaging music that was first offered in part in a non-music gratia context — as “Too Close,” part of a spring Internet Explorer 9 campaign, was — is that it is almost always heard in part and not whole. Starting at “Which way is right? Which way is wrong?” is far less compelling than “You know I’m not one / To breaaaak promehsays,” both a better lyric and better-delivered. Recontextualizing the breakup Clare paints as, uh, sticking with Internet Explorer, I guess? That’s even worse. But the worst thing about those commercials was how much of the dumb WUB WUB dubstep hook they featured, and how little of the mechanized gallop in the verses we got. That’s the core of the song, sure — but it works in “Too Close” the song for its balance with the soft-loud-soft use of space, and doesn’t work so well with just a 1:1 soft-loud ratio. And the part that made “Too Close” arresting in 2012 wasn’t the loud bit.

Jer Fairall: A toss-up whether his faux soul wail or the aggressive dubstep grind is the uglier noise, but the self-righteousness and the notable lack of detail in his portrait of her grate nearly as much, to the point that the it becomes reasonable to assume that “my best friend” must be his words for “girl I stalk at the water cooler.”

W.B. Swygart: Not the worst song with a crunchingly shite dubstep breakdown that Radio 1 has chosen to rinse to death in the past 18 months or so (that’d be Modestep’s “Sunlight,” which I ain’t linking to because I don’t have a good enough reason to hate you yet), but the way he bleat-brags “got to be true to myself” gives me hives.

Alfred Soto: Enunciating with force and clarity the woes of pigheadedness, abetted by deluxe modern effects, Clare would have been a superb lead singer for a hair metal band.


Edward Okulicz: Clare can’t muster enough genuine feeling to sell the words, so he just blusters. He can’t write a good enough song to encompass the apparent hugeness of his feelings, so he resorts to dubstep as an attempt to lend a doomy din to proceedings. It doesn’t work; he just sounds tiny by comparison, and the music just sounds lunk-headed and grotty. This song is such a cop-out, substituting “now” sounds and obvious signifiers of “feeling it” for, well, actually feeling it, and has been given prominence by people’s general bad taste (or blindness when it comes to Serious. Blokes. Emoting. Loudly.) and the ill winds of 2012-era trends.

Patrick St. Michel: The tasteful use of brostep wobble isn’t enough to cover up the icky emotions at the center of this song. “Too Close” could be retitled “Nice Guy: The Song,” as Alex Clare whines about being too close to someone… someone he also calls his “best friend” despite not treating them remotely as such. 

Katherine St Asaph: Is it too late to revise “brostep” so “bro” indicates the Olly Murs assholes, not the Korn ones? Smarm and fedoras, not aggro and scraggly hair? It’d explain this track perfectly, a pompous, puffed-up Crap Email (with a Wub-Wub Attachment) from a Dude. And judging by the term’s last incarnation, it’d explain why I don’t hate it like I should.

Jonathan Bogart: When I first heard this, it was while driving and looking for a restaurant and not paying very close attention, and I took the rattling percussion and acoustic guitar loops for an attempt to ride Gotye ft. Kimbra’s coattails, so that when the Joe Cocker-does-dubstep chorus hit I was surprised and enthused. Further exposure, of course, revealed it for the banality it is; but I have a sneaking fondness for it anyway, like I do for almost anything that achieves a certain degree of popularity. Maybe it’s just preemptively reconciling myself to hearing it on oldies stations decades from now.

Ian Mathers: Okay, “Not Giving In” wound up growing on me; now I’d give it at least a [7]. It happens, but it especially rankles here because Alex Clare’s work on his own deserves the exact [6] I gave the other song already — Clare’s vocals aren’t as good here, the production isn’t as striking, even the lyrical content is more well-worn. If we’d reviewed this one first, if anything I would have erred on the other side and given “Not Giving In” an [8] once I realized how middling Clare can be on his own.

Brad Shoup: So the white whale comes into view, and it’s just an Atlantic wub mackerel that got stuck inside a Staind CD. This terrorized the coastline? It’s not even an appetizer!

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