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- Aquarius Andromeda by The Three O'Clock
9/10 Clinton Staff review, 20 February 2014
Oh bless its the Three O’ Clock. A wonderfully melodic 60’s-obsessed 80’s Paisley Underground band who seemed at one point to be as near as the 80’s psych-pop scene got to having its very own Monkees.
Starting off as a blitzkreig punk pop outfit called Salvation Army (if you find any of their records or the re-issues then just buy them - ask questions later), Three O’ Clock were a much more keyboard led, jangly guitar affair who released a few corking records before succumbing to the late 80’s penchant for slathering everything in keyboards and horrible production values. Of late though the band has reconvened to play a few rapturously received shows (oh to have attended, I’d have given away all my teeth). This is a compilation of rare, unreleased tracks and alternate versions and helps set the record straight about a band whose career had ended in a bit of a confusing muddle.
Opener ‘All in Good Time’ is a typical jaunty effort, they very often had marching band like intro’s which burst into terrifically upbeat pop songs. Singer/bassist Michael Quercio’s voice is an amazing and unusual thing, unfathomably high, like a mop-topped Green Gartside or a Pete Shelley on helium, his words wander around the myriad melodies which never quite go where you expect. The second tune ‘In Love in Too’ is one of my favourite Three O’ Clock nuggets, I had it on some Belgian re-issue of their debut EP ‘Baroque Hoedown’ and its incredible, so tuneful it should perhaps be banned as it launches into a downward spiral of a chorus with jangling guitars, buzzing keys and high harmonies. Brilliant. I once heard a rumour the nascent Stone Roses were fans of The Three O’Clock and if so you can really see it on this track, the guitar break particularly could have fitted straight onto their classic debut.
For their debut full length ‘Sixteen Tambourines’, they ditched some of the psych leanings at times for a more mid 60’s Bee Gees like pop, ‘When Lightning Starts’, here in an alternate horn-less version, re-defines the word jaunty. I don’t like this era of the group quite as much as their earlier work but its so catchy you’ll be singing it forever. ‘Sounds Surrounds’ demo is crazy -an all over the place burst of melody - its as if they are trying to play the entire Hollies back catalogue at once. The same can be said of ‘Around the World’ and how this didn’t come out at the time is anyones guess.
I’m never quite sure if Three O’Clock were an acquired taste or not as I don’t actually know anyone else who likes them. Certainly the vocals take some getting used to and it all may be a bit winsome for some, ‘The Girl With the Guitar’ is a great song (co-written with the late, great Scott Miller) but its so fey and twee its like eating a box of chocolates all in one go. But when they were tough and raw and garagey, this band were brilliant.
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