(Feels a wee bit old-timey, to be in wannabe music journalist mode again. Didn’t do that for some time now. Hope, I’m not to rusty…)
I first discovered Claire about a year ago on a night show somewhere on German television (BR alpha? I don’t quite remember.) and thought, whoa this is great! So I followed them on Twitter not to forget about them and waited for the release of the debut album.
The album is most of the time a solid electropop production, very dancable and energetic. Here and there is a little bit of Dubstep and even more Disco: a combination that definitely works for me. And Claire’s sometimes mellow, distant sometimes powerful voice does the rest.
First track is Broken Promise Land. Starts easy but quickly evolves to a steady beat. The tune is quite catchy, but nothing particularly special. I would have picked another one as the album opener. Nonetheless, a very good piece of electropop, however no potential as a single. The next one, Games, is more poppy and one of the lighter songs of the album. It is a duet of lead singer Claire together with one of her bandmates and was released earlier on an eponymous EP. This song has more of radio potential due to its lighter mood and is indeed the first single of the album
Of a different kind is the slow, dark Pioneers with those howling synth stabs. Great! The whole mood of the song reminds me of some works by Schiller (not the poet, though). You won’t hear that one on the radio, but definitely in a club.
And there comes the second single The Next Ones To Comes. Dubsteppy and with 2007 Trance-like chopped vocals. Amazing. Definitely a good pick for a single and imho a far better opener than Broken Promise Land.Over too quickly, thats the only fault of the song.
Neon Love starts and evolves unfortunately a bit boring, but the weeping guitar is just great. A solid song, but not a highlight. The next one, Overdrive is also rather slow but features a harder, more driving synthbass and something that may have been a solid bassdrop if crafted a bit better. Still Overdrive is one of my favourites due to the blend of a slow beat and a still driving rhythm. Sounds a bit like the songs of Róisín Murphy’s album “Overpowered” – and not just because of the title.
Invincible is your powerpop meets electrostep peaktime tune. Would work on both radio and club. Catchy, driving, perfectly arranged, Invincible is a favourite and highlight of the album.
Unfortunately, Hallowed Ground, is the low of the album. I produce electronic music myself and know how much work is behind any single song and I feel kind of mean to be so blunt about it. But Hallowed Ground is simply boring and the only song that I skip. Sorry, mates.
A Million Drums is similar to Pioneers, but features far more drums – obviously. In fact so many of them, the song feels like a march. A bit too many, as Claire’s voice doesn’t really get through all the beats. Less is sometimes more.
The eponymous The Great Escape is again a more poppy tune with that funny little synth hook. Very playful and with a catchy chorus, the song is more tailored for the radio and would fare probably very well. Third single anyone, guys?
In Two Minds is very calm. It is its steady build-up that keeps it from being as boring as Hallowed Ground. While less is sometimes really more, Claire’s voice is not (yet) able to fill all the space of such a calm song. Not her fault, though. The producer should have noticed. Maybe overdubbing would do the trick.
Ah, Roll Down Run South. Definitely my favourite song. It has everything: Alternating fast and slow parts, a catchy chorus, instrumentation that is just right. Interestingly, the “slow” part is twice as fast as the the “fast” part, due to the Dubstep rhythm. Then there is the trancy arpeggio synth, disco stabs, guitar licks and this pitched vocal line (you will know what I mean). Roll Down Run South will be huge in the club. Definitely a floorfiller. Actually, I love this song so much, I would very much like to remix it. I would be very honoured if you would provide me with the track stems or just the vocals.
The final track Resurrection is Nu Disco par excellence. Glittering, glistening and very dancy this one would also work on both radio and dance floor.
Overall, the album is very well produced, mostly flawless – Hallowed Ground and In Two Minds are the unfortunate exceptions. OK, forget about them. Claire have some huge dance floor song there: Roll Down Run South, The Next Ones To Come, Invincible. And also catchy radio pop tunes: Games, Resurrection, The Great Escape. Claire’s voice features the kind of rough softness that is perfect for Electropop and Nu Disco. She sings between soft, vulnerable, hurt, insecure and powerful, sexy, self-confident. Still, every song features little sound details, a bleep here, a strange-but-fitting noise there. Very enjoyable to hunt these little details.
Listening recommendations: Roll Down Run South, Invincible.
Aggregating the ratings of all the individual songs would give “The Great Escape” 4.2/5 stars. Worth listening and buying? Oh, definitely. Electropop and Nu Disco at its finest from a band, not yet washed down by the mainstream. Some rough edges here and there, but hey, still great.