Phrase
Clockwork


4.0
excellent

Review

by Davey Boy STAFF
October 27th, 2009 | 126 replies | 15,354 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: This is what persistence looks like, a $hitload of passion with a dream that took time.

“Persistence”… “Passion”… “Dream”. These are three words featured in the first half of the chorus to the Bliss N Eso collaboration titled ‘Persistence’, on Phrase’s 2nd album ‘Clockwork’. And what fitting words they are, as they not only point to a main theme of the LP, but also describe the Australian rapper’s path in releasing it. You see, ‘Clockwork’ was for all intents and purposes completed in October of 2007. However, staff changes at his record label put the project on hold and if it wasn’t for the assistance of radio network Triple J, then it may never have seen the light of day. Thank goodness that it has, since it now places Phrase alongside the Hilltop Hoods at the pinnacle of Australian hip-hop.

If persistence is the primary theme of the album, then the secondary one revolves around the title itself. With little money, no job and few qualifications, Phrase – real name Harley Webster – soon became depressed and reality struck that he could be in a despised 9-5 job sooner rather than later. It is that theme of a monotonous life which dominates the fantastic and relatable lead single and title track, that bravely communicates its purpose through the use of a sample of the 1950s Ray Conniff version of Academy Award winning song ‘Windmills of your Mind’.

In fact, the quality of the beginning to ‘Clockwork’ is so high that the opening five tracks could all legitimately stake a claim to be released as singles. Pseudo-opener ‘Burn It Down’ is sure to be a live favorite with its sing-along factor, while ‘Spaceship’ sees Phrase have no trouble whatsoever with quickening the pace. The great thing here is that Phrase is just as adept whether the individual cut has an up-tempo and dancier vibe (such as on ‘Surrender’, ‘Paradise’ and ‘Skylight’ which features Spiderbait’s Kram), or a slower and emotional touch (such as ‘All Good’ and ‘Day You Went Away’ which riskily features Wendy Matthews replaying her chorus from the well-known 1992 hit).

Guest vocals are clearly an integral – but not dominating - component of ‘Clockwork’, whether they are little known artists such as Max White, Jade McRae & Axle Whitehead contributing backing vocals to choruses, or Kram, Matthews, Jackson Jackson, Illy & Bliss N Eso being heavily featured. However, the M.V.P of the bunch surely deserves to be expat Aussie Daniel Merriweather, who provides a sublimely soulful chorus to the moving and emotional ‘Chains’. All the right notes are hit on this personal memorial to a deceased friend, including a sweeping orchestral arrangement.

Another strength to ‘Clockwork’ is the way in which it adds variety by combining live instrumentation with beats and loops. Helping this matter is the fact that Phrase can play guitar and drums himself, but bass and strings are also apparent. Yet, even when the range of backing music is whittled down on a track like ‘Persistence’, the attention to detail sees it constantly shifting to keep listeners on their toes and highlight the excellent flow from the song’s three vocalists.

To state it plainly; ‘Clockwork’ hardly loses steam as it progresses, with barely a throwaway track amongst the 15 on offer. Those that could be considered close to such a classification will usually save themselves with a catchy and recitable chorus, even if some may find them a little cheesy. And while the lyrics may be far too literal for the most hardened of hip-hop heads, they are relatable, sufficiently clever and showcase very good storytelling. Phrase never attempts to mask his heart-on-sleeve approach and ‘Clockwork’ as a whole is all the better for his honesty.

Phrase and ‘Clockwork’ will not necessarily be for everyone. Those in the northern hemisphere may not be able to get past the Australian accent. Casual mainstream music fans may find it too much of a rap album, or feel the production is not up to the slickness of Timbaland and his cohorts. While gangstas will find Phrase’s modesty sickening. To everyone else who simply enjoys a variety of catchy and relatable music that tells an honest story; strike up a barbie, grab a beer and enjoy what may be the sleeper choice to be hip-hop album of the year!

Recommended Tracks: Chains, Clockwork, Spaceship & Persistence.



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user ratings (13)
Chart.
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
David James Young (4)
Right place, right time- with solid follow-up, Phrase looks set to explode....


Comments:Add a Comment 
DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 27th 2009



20856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Review was written months ago before I was promoted to staff... Hence the more informal writing & the length. Atavanhalen's review is more than fine, but I thought this should be resurrected as the album has flown way too much under the radar!

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 27th 2009



20856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh & make sure you get yourself a copy of the version of the album which contains bonus track ‘Street Lights’. It’s a fantastic & imposing cut which was foolishly (presuming it wasn’t a late addition or there is some other reason) left off the album proper. From a straight-up hip-hop perspective, it could actually be classified as one of Clockwork’s strongest tracks.

Then again, I had an internal debate with myself whittling down the recommended tracks to 4 anyway. At least 8 of them were in genuine contention!

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
October 27th 2009



3765 Comments


Oh hey I know Phrase. For some reason I've avoided like everything to do with bliss N' Esso tho, I need to change that. Btw, you should check out/review Astronomy Class - Pursuit of Happiness. Members of The Herd, playing dub, really funky stuff.

Digging: Caribou - Our Love

Vooligan
October 27th 2009



3541 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Been loving Aussie Hip-Hop lately. Still need to get a hard copy of this.
Noice review Davey, once again.

Oh and Davey, have you heard the track Phrase did with Kenny?

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 27th 2009



20856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It may be too mainstream for you Alex, but I guess if you like Urthboy, then who knows. Speaking of The Herd's side-projects, I really need to give Spitshine a good & proper listen.

Hey Billy, you've been quiet. Did you end up going to see Horror Show & Urthboy last week? And I refuse to believe Phrase has done a duet with Kenny G!!! ;-)

AtavanHalen
October 27th 2009



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Which track is Axle Whitehead on?

Vooligan
October 27th 2009



3541 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, my Yr 12 exams start next week so i've been studying a shitload and not gone near the computer much. Nah i didn't, again, was studying unfortunately.

And Phrase with Ian Kenny: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqYOPM-RsFc

AtavanHalen
October 27th 2009



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Face It is so good.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 27th 2009



20856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Now you're testing my memory DavID. I wrote this review so darn long ago. But I think its 'Spaceship'. I recall it just being backing vocals on just 1 song. I'll have to go find my original notes you pain.

Righteo Billy. I got it in my head that since muck-up day had come & gone (I saw a guy in a vegemite costume board a train last week), you might be done by now. No such luck for you unfortunately. Good luck on them & thanks for the link.

AtavanHalen
October 27th 2009



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Also check out Phrase bootlegging My People: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vKdvq8d8gk

Vooligan
October 27th 2009



3541 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Twelve Foot Ninja do a mad metal version of My People at gigs.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 27th 2009



20856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

DavID, it is 'Spaceship' that Whitehead is apparently on. Just the chorus. Too bad he couldn't have snuck into the video too.

I've got some YouTubing to do by the look of it. Damn my slow pc right now.

sgrevs
October 27th 2009



698 Comments


I dislike most Aussie hip-hop I hear, but Phrase is pretty good.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 27th 2009



20856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah sgrevs, there is something about him that I like more than most (probably even above Hilltop Hoods). I'm unsure I even know what it is, but he's got something.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 27th 2009



20856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Billy/DavID, that 'Face It' song was great. I hadn't heard that before. Those 2 guys should be the biggest name in Aussie music right now.

Jim
October 27th 2009



5110 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ugh so many albums to check out.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 27th 2009



20856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Trust me Jim-Bob, I know what you mean mate.

I actually thought you'd given this a listen for some reason. Must have got you mixed up with Billy. Same diagonal stripe, different colour.

Jim
October 27th 2009



5110 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i should be offended that you would subconsciously think that i would ever wear essendon colours!

but yeah easy mistake.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 27th 2009



20856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I apologise for thinking you may want to follow a team that actually make the finals one year!

Vooligan
October 27th 2009



3541 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

ugh ninthmond



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