If the untimely death of Gavin Clark (Clayhill, UNKLE) in February this year weren’t already tragic enough, perhaps the most heartwrenching aspect of his passing is that he had been toiling over what could quite feasibly be heralded as his greatest achievement. Evangelist is quite simply a brooding, epic work of art.
The eponymously titled album begins with the cinematic ‘The World That I Created’ and instantly, we are hooked. A slow burner, beginning with a mournful, regretful glance at the brutal planet we call home, it continues dramatically and dirge-like for a good 90 seconds before exploding into this visionary tale of a preacher questioning his faith and, as a concept throughout, falling headlong into a world of drugs and depravity before finally redressing the balance with his own salvation. It is hardly surprising then, that Clark has regularly soundtracked the works of his great friend, Shane Meadows. Indeed, it contains all the elements that colour and characterise the celebrated British director’s best works, and you can’t help feeling that if the Midlander chose to adapt the story for the silver screen, it could end up being feted as his masterpiece.
It is a varied set within; ‘Same Hands’, for instance, lying somewhere between the retro-glam boot stomping of The Black Keys‘ ‘Gold On The Ceiling’, the bawdy laddishness of Kasabian and the Dr. Who theme tune. Then there’s the ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ as produced by The Chemical Brothers feel of the terrific ‘Know One Will Ever Know’ (sic) which thunders along amidst some of the most invigorating beats and loops you’ve heard since the nineties. Sometimes it is soothing, with downbeat songs that are tempered with an emotional uplift (‘The Unbeliever (I’m Never Wrong)‘ comparable to one of Elbow‘s more rousing numbers, at other points grippingly intense and our protagonist clearly nearing the end of his tether (‘God Song’, which has the repetitive thrust of something by Suicide until the synths kick in, at which point it starts to recall Grandmaster and Melle Mel‘s ‘White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)‘. An astonishing fireball of a record, it’s the musical equivalent to an emotional breakdown.
Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. The truth is, although I was aware of his talent as a songwriter, I never spent enough time with this artist during the living years. This album has served to send me scuttling through Clark’s back catalogue, where I have no doubt that I will find gem after gem in my hunt for redemption.