The Relationship

Clara Obscura

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Arriving seven years distant from their 2010 debut, Clara Obscura is the sophomore outing from Weezer guitarist Brian Bell's excellent power pop combo, the Relationship. Previously feeling like a side project with some potential, the group now sounds like its own distinctive beast, as Bell and his bandmates deliver a meaty set of melodic rock & roll in the vein of Redd Kross, the Grays, and other underappreciated greats from the Golden State. Originally comprising an ever-changing ensemble of friends, the Relationship have gelled into a tight-knit ensemble featuring Bell on vocals and guitar, lead guitarist Brandon Graham, bassist Jon LaRue, and drummer Justin Goings. Fans will undoubtedly still hear hints of Weezer's chunky fuzz-pop, but the songs on Clara Obscura feel even more indebted to that region of rock that falls between the Beatles' tuneful jangle and Cheap Trick's bar band swagger. Amid the hooky choruses and thumping riffs are the cleverly arranged breakdowns and harmonic bits favored by bands well studied in rock's great pageantry. The sunny but mighty "Smile" and the slinky-cool "Break Me Open" are immediate uptempo standouts, while a pair of slower, string-laden cuts, "Hawthorne" and "This Year's Children," have some of the earnest warmth of latter-day Teenage Fanclub. With Clara Obscura, Bell has produced a gem that plays very much like the output of a working band rather than a side project.

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