27th November | Exchange

On Bob Dylan’s 1985 album, Empire Burlesque, there’s a track entitled, ‘Clean Cut Kid’. On it, the great grater grumblegrowls:

‘Everybody wants to know why he couldn’t adjust/
Adjust to what, a dream that bust?

He was a clean-cut kid/
But they made a killer out of him/
That’s what they did.’

Mike Halls of Clean Cut Kid may have a beard that’s somewhere in the Rasputin/Charles Manson zone, but I’m sure that the long period of hibernation between their busy summer 2017 festival schedule and 2018’s late autumn tour was spent on musical projects, rather than on anything more Dylanesque-sinister.

The Dylan lyric is all about cynicism, broken dreams and having broken wings, all of which underpinned Clean Cut Kid’s April 2017 album, Felt. It was basically a concept album of break-up songs, about suffering, overcoming and then recovering with the aid of love as a soothing balm. They had a perky pathos to them, not weighed or slowed by moroseness or melancholy. The twin vocal axis of Mike and Evelyn Halls, whose romance and subsequent marriage underpins the ‘recovery’ aspects was a particular strength of the album.

They keep teasing us all with #cckalbum2 hashtags and have given us some specific tastes of things to come through the Painkiller EP, a refined sound that takes the more mellifluous side that they channelled when they supported Michael Kiwanuka on his 2017 tour. ‘Emily’ and ‘Stay Awake’ were tender tranches of Fleetwood-Mac-ery, whilst ‘Deafening’ mixed some of that lightness with a portentous rumble of Black Sabbath.

Whether your facial hair game is strong, or your chin is clean-cut, there’s a great gig waiting for you on Tuesday night at Exchange.

See the video to ‘Emily’ here: