Save The Clocktower – Carousel

written by: July 27, 2011
Save the Clocktower Carousel album cover Release Date: February 26, 2011


Save The Clocktower is a Chicago collective of musicians that goes after dream-pop, but the very mention of its influences and the people it shares the stage with (first name drop, Toro Y Moi) takes more away from its buzz than it gives.

It is a common conundrum facing up-and-coming local bands: Mention a band that is quite ostensibly better than you and risk letting your audience down when you don’t live up to those expectations. Worse yet, you could be totally wrong—hell, Puddle of Mudd cites Led Zeppelin as an influence. On the plus side, because the music world is so disparate and gigantic nowadays, little-known bands need foundations to catch the eye (or ear) of an unknown discoverer. Somewhat bizarrely, Save The Clocktower brings a bit of the chillwave vibe they so readily throw around in their bios to their sophomore LP, Carousel, but also falter from a lack of direction that says more about their youth as a band than their influences.

For the most part, Carousel doesn’t resemble the blog-buzzed, festival-friendly chillwave scene in any way. The members certainly go for something resembling Toro Y Moi on tracks like “Far Apart,” but for the most part the band reaches for more apparent hooks and traditional song structures than the bands they say they emulate. Bands like Toro and Neon Indian go for sugary hooks just like Save The Clocktower does, but unlike the former two, STC doesn’t make anything sonically complex.

Most of the material here could be created using basic guitars, keyboards and sampling, another marker of a youthful, inexperienced band.

Within that overt, sophomore level musicality, Carousel is frequently a “fly in all directions” LP, with the band expanding their sound to both electro-pop and rock, again with mixed results.

They’re better at doing jammy chillwave rip-offs somewhat akin to Ghostland Observatory, on “Take Me There” than embracing dark electro-rock like lead single, “Your Pain.” There are positives to take from STC’s sonic expansion. They do a fairly convincing drugged out Chromeo impression with “The One Thing,” and much of Carousel is indebted to MGMT’s pop sensibilities. STC never seems to grasp MGMT’s pretentious ironic distance or belief that they’re creating art, but that’s more a positive than a negative considering the abomination that Congratulations was.

Lyrically, as is the case with chillwave, there’s not much to find. The sonics are more important here, yet the lyrics frequently drift to trance romance and hushed come-ons. The most interesting part of Carousel’s lyrics are the times STC strays from this—“Taped Noise,” in both sonics and lyrics, goes for Depeche Mode anthemizing with a very mediocre result. A better result might be “They,” which is a drunken lament about the lack of money, coupled with a distant woman. Taken without a hint of irony, “They” could be viewed as a possible step forward for chillwave, an adaptation and absorption of elements of country-folk and drunken boozing. The tumbleweed percussion belies this lack of irony and says that Save The Clocktower is winking at their audience while creating their most sugary song at the same time.

In the end, this defeats Carousel, as Save The Clocktower gives off the impression that, while they strive to be like their buzzy references, the result is more a function of their ability to drop art for a reach at a bigger audience.

Save The Clocktower – Carousel Tracklist:

  1. “Drip”
  2. “You Got Me”
  3. “Far Apart”
  4. “They”
  5. “The One Thing”
  6. “Sinking Ship”
  7. “Taped Noise”
  8. “Take Me There”
  9. “Your Pain”
  10. “Headphones”