Review: Clay Lake – The Manly Toughness Trophy EP

Fearlessness might be no sure-fire measure of a band’s potential, but there is a point about halfway through Clay Lake‘s debut EP where one does sit up and take notice. Devoting a track to a poem recital sounds bold – bordering on bonkers – for an otherwise straightforward, fledgeling emo-punk act, but it tells you everything you need to know about this Stoke trio’s first proper release.

Tom Flemming, Elliot Sheerin and Alex Bettany picked up the pieces of various Midlands bands in 2016, and now ‘The Manly Toughness Trophy’ follows last year’s single ‘Stitches’. If that title alone teases out even the faintest of smiles, it’s fairly safe to say the entire EP’s aesthetic will find you well. Clay Lake combine sharp, clean guitars with ambitious twiddling a la American Football. Similarly, there’s a mix of standard melodies and yells with surprisingly affecting spoken moments, as mentioned above for the entirety of ‘Air and Light and Time and Space, a Poem by Charles Bukowski.’

It’s not unoriginal or pretentious in any way and is handled strikingly well, no more out of place than a sample in an Eminem track. More conventional but no less effective is ‘Eyesore’‘s dynamic ebb and flow, graduating from truly raw shouts to aching strains of brass.

Complex structures abound but are amply navigated and led by drummer Flemming, most impressively on ‘I Quit My Day-job Behind My P.C., Time For Fun and Beer.’ Yet for all the creative expansion, things come to rest with the aptly-titled ‘Relapse’, driven by a simple, swelling riff that guides the EP to a satisfying close.

Clay Lake make a statement on The Manly Toughness Trophy’, which succeeds in being ambitious and very enjoyable from start to finish. Expect these guys to have a record label the next time they put out music.

4/5

‘The Manly Toughness Trophy‘ by Clay Lake is out on 19th April.

Clay Lake links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Words by Peter Stewart (@PeteStew_)

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