Album Review: The Relationship’s Clara Obscura paints clear picture of breakup

The Relationship, Clara Obscura, Brian Bell, Weezer

When RIFF talked to Weezer’s Brian Bell about his band The Relationship last November, to say he was excited about the group’s forthcoming album would have been an understatement. A smile spread across his normally stoic face, Bell beamed when he talked about the music he and his band had been working on.

Clara Obscura
The Relationship
April 21

The Relationship got its start back in 2006 when Bell and Nate Shaw teamed up, releasing their first full-length album in 2010. In the seven years since, the band has gone through considerable changes, notably replacing Shaw with Brandon Graham on guitar and added Justin Goings on drums.

Bell said he already had a “work” band (Weezer), with whom he’s played since 1992. The Relationship, he said, was his opportunity make the music he wanted.

“I really just wanted a band of friends,” said Bell. “I wanted something to do that was fun.”

Loaded with sunny California beach tunes, there’s no doubt that Clara Obscura (out April 21) is a breakup album. The debate is easily settled upon listening to the album’s opener: “Missing.” What might be best described as a modern take on a ‘90s throwback to ‘50s rock, the song details the impact of losing a lover. “Did those love notes you wrote me mean anything at all?” Bell laments on the track that could potentially have listeners simultaneously tapping their toes and reminiscing.

“You just hope that other people relate to it and have gone through a similar thing,” he said about the album. “That’s all a song is to me; the capturing of the essence of a feeling. If you’ve done that, you have, at least, the basis of a good song. If it doesn’t have that, it’s really kind of bullshit.”

The most Weezer-esque song on the album might be the lead single, “Break Me Open.” Between hooky riffs that emulate a pulsating heartbeat, Bell begs the listener to “crack the code of my emotion,” while lyrically setting the scene with lines such as “Every wall goes up when the sun goes down.”

Other Clara Obscura standouts include the stalker-rock “Hate That I Love You,” on which the writer stakes out a spot in a diner to watch the target of his affection. “You never notice me noticing you,” Bell whines in the chorus. “Hawthorne,” meanwhile, is more than just a Beach Boys throwback; It’s an ode to the band and the city that birthed the group.

The album’s breakout breakup ode, however, has to be “Without Me.” Akin to Adele’s “Someone Like You,” the song recounts what it’s like when the person you loved and lost has moved on and is happier than they ever were with you.

“I met you in the summer, I had you by the winter, but soon as love was building up, it all began to splinter,” Bell sings. “Better have your next lover be sure to sign a waiver”

“‘You’re going to be fine without me,’” he explained after performing the song last fall. “This person is fine without me, not me fine without you. I’m not fine without you. I fucking want you. That’s what I’m saying. I want this person, but they’re OK without me.”

Though Weezer fans will find several tunes to enjoy on Clara Obscura, the album demonstrates that The Relationship, breakup or not, can stand on their own.

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