Alex Clare – Tail of Lions (review)

Alex Clare – Tail of Lions (ETC Recordings) review

His third album was recorded on a boat!

It can be hard to find inspiration when we’re constantly bombarded by technology. Alex Clare discovered the perfect solution: laying tracks down for his new record on a boat, with bassist Chris Hargreaves. The resulting long-player, Tail of Lions, finds the British singer maturing as a songwriter, while keeping in tact his signature sound that catapulted him to worldwide acclaim in 2011 with the double platinum smash, “Too Close.”

He tackles a wide array of topics on his third album – from the difficulties of mental illness, with the pulsating “Basic,” to the struggles of daily life, on the excellent, hard funk of “Surviving Ain’t Living,” which features a nice guitar solo at the end.

Clare, who is married, with two small children, addresses the difficulties of keeping a relationship together in the leadoff single, “Tell Me What You Need.” The song starts with heavy percussion before giving way to a synth-laden chorus.

Clare converted to Orthodox Judaism over the last few years and the title of the disc, Tail of Lions, references an old Jewish saying that “it’s better to be the tail of a lion, than the head of a fox.” Several songs, like “Get Real,” and “Gotta Get Up,” deal with the tension between his faith and the pulls of the real world. A pleasant surprise is the all-voices, no instruments ending on the midtempo “Tired From the Fire.”

The disc ends with the contemplative “You’ll Be Fine.” After he questions “what are you hiding from” and “what are you fighting for,” he reassures that “you’ll be fine,” repeating over and over, a mantra as the disc closes.

Clare had a contentious relationship with his previous record label (Island), who never truly supported his second album (the more earthy Three Hearts). It’s a shame too – Clare is a fine vocalist and melodic songwriter, and if you strip away the electronics, as in this “Stripped Version” of “Tell Me What You Need,” it still stands on its own:

Handling topics of spirituality and mature relationships may seem like heady material, yet Alex Clare’s gravelly, yet soaring vocals pull you in, making Tail of Lions more than a typical pop record. It’s one that reveals more, each time you play it. –Tony Peters