Single Review: Clare Maguire – ‘The Shield And The Sword’

When Clare Maguire finally finished recording her début album – which spent three years in the pipeline, undergoing plentiful promises of perfection such as being signed to Polydor via a very impressed Jay-Z (a man who has proven on numerous occasions his uncannily astute marketing eye) and Polydor Records roping in Fraser T. Smith to be Clare’s right-hand knob-twiddler for the album – you could say everything went a bit quiet. The release of Clare’s first single, the dramatic surrealist pop of ‘Ain’t Nobody’, slipped under the radar more unnoticed than a film starring Eddie Murphy, stalling at a lowly #78.

But things began to look up as, on January 7, she took her seat in fifth position on the BBC Sound Of… poll. This of course, gave her a step-up and some half-decent radio promotion, and subsequently, second single ‘The Last Dance’ landed at a gallant #23. Her album ‘Light After Dark’ went on to be heavily slated by many a mainstream reviewer, but nevertheless, she planted herself firmly in the UK Albums Chart at #7.

So, four months down the line. Two singles, one album, a pretty lackadaisical attempt at self-promotion and an even more woeful pick-up from popular radio stations, Clare Maguire is only the latest addition in a long queue of artists who the BBC tell us will make it big, who in fact never really did.

To be honest though, Clare’s contemporary, 21st Century Fleetwood Mac-esque styles often do work in her favour. She’s of the Patrick Wolf ilk, who combines rustic sing writing and obscure lyrics with layers upon layers of electronically enhanced bleeps and samples. ‘The Shield And The Sword’ is the epitome of just that. From the moment the drums kick in and a tsunami of stratospheric synths and sweeping strings – which don’t so much as caress, as quite literally blast the door of down on any unsuspecting soul who stands within a mile of Clare as she opens her petite lips to let out a full-throated wail so mighty the MET Office would have merit for a weather warning – we can hear Clare’s typified stridence take full effect. As tempestuous production battles for a good four minutes with Clare’s siren’s call, one trying to constantly out do the other, it’s not hard to get lost within it all. A lot of listeners will hate this song, and few will adore it.

When the introduction retreats and Clare’s breathy, Annie Lennox/Stevie Nicks-inspired vocals take the reigns, she sings of a love turned sour, and one that she’s going to make her other half pay for. “You have the shield/I’ll take the sword/I no longer love you/No longer love you”. Make of the lyrics what you will – the rest of the album’s lyrics are equally as clumsily ambiguous.

The production is interesting though, as it decided to do a disappearing act when the second chorus arrives, leaving you wondering whether it actually it the chorus, or a really early middle eight. I suppose you could say it’s a refreshing break from convention, but not one that initially, or even finally, looks or sounds like something innovative. Don’t get me wrong, the song’s hookline is easy to relate to if you’ve ever fallen out of love, and some of the lyrics convince – “I’m workin’, burnin’ all our bridges now” acts as a stellar metaphor that really encapsulates the songs anger.

Here’s the video: Keep an eye out for Lady GaGa and Katy Perry/Marina Diamandis!

Nice leotards… But doesn’t she look lovely and serene, like a lovely china doll in that lovely fur thing? Lovely.

After the immaculate ‘The Last Dance’, there’s very little on Clare’s album that, if you weren’t a big fan to begin with, could ever cause you to convert. ‘The Shield And The Sword’ nicely procures for her fans, and with extra promotion, may just tickle the taste buds of a few casual listeners into inquiring about her a littler further, but this is why Clare has failed to scale the heights of the charts that the BBC Sound Of… incorrectly expected. It was plain to see she may do a Little Boots or a HURTS as her music and more obviously, her voice, isolate many before they even get past the first few bars.

Rating: 3.0 STARS

Download: May 8, 2011 (OUT NOW)

Featured Album: ‘Light After Dark’

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