As the unofficial poster girl for perseverance, Welsh-Italian singer/songwriter Marli Harwood has had to deal with more false starts than an athletics track referee, with the release dates of every single one of her five previous albums canceled before they could make it onto the shelves. She finally makes it out of the starting blocks 16 years after embarking on a pop career with her official debut, Clocks and Full Stops, released through the label she originally started out with, Island Records. Apart from the obligatory attempt at Lily Allen-esque ska-pop ("If Love Makes Sense"), its 12 tracks could have been recorded at any period during her numerous difficult setbacks, at times recalling the MOR soft rock of Talk on Corners-era the Corrs ("Fall in Love with Me"), the mainstream country of Shania Twain ("Queen of Fantasy Land"), and the kooky guitar pop of Alisha's Attic ("Billy"). But as pleasant as the gentle Dixie Chicks-ish ballad "Clock with No Hands" and the twinkling music boxes and angelic harmonies of "The Break Up Song" are, there's very little here to suggest that her sixth-place finish in 2002's Fame Academy was a grave injustice. Indeed, not only does the production appear firmly stuck in the late '90s, but the Cosmo-friendly lyrics, which largely center around heartbreak and the inadequacies of men, don't seem to have moved on from the kind of scribblings you'd find in a teenager's diary ("Yesterday we were fighting over scrambled eggs"). And while its simplistic nature sometimes has its charms, it also occasionally appears a little cloying, as on her whistled-led sugary-pop cover version of Henry Priestman's "It's Called a Heart"; "The Recipe," which sounds like an outtake from a below-average Disney musical; and the Eurovision-style singalong of "Planet Pop." No one can begrudge Harwood's well-deserved and long-awaited shot at the big time, but Clocks and Full Stops would perhaps have struck a bigger chord had it not been subjected to such a long gestation.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien