The car windows are down, the air is warm, and the possibilities are boundless. On Cut Worms, the newself-titled album from Brooklyn-based Max Clarke, the singer-songwriter and musician continues hisexploration of what he calls “pop essentialism”. Mining the golden hits of yesteryear for a timelessdouble A-side sound, he contemplates age-old questions through a modern lens. Here, he leaves behindthe legendary studio and sought-after producers for a more homegrown approach, working with a castof gifted friends and collaborators. The result is a compact collection of daydream anthems that livebetween the summer’s hopeful beginnings and the season’s fleeting end.
As opposed to recording the entire album in one chunk at one studio, Clarke varied his methods. Threeof the songs were cut from start to finish in his shared rehearsal space. “Don’t Fade Out” and LivingInside” were recorded in Brooklyn by Brian and Michael D’Addario of the Lemon Twigs, who also playedpiano and bass, respectively, on these two songs. Further basic tracking was done by Rick Spataro (ofindie folk band Florist) at his Hudson Valley studio, Onlyness Analog, with contributions from the longstanding Cut Worms live band–keyboardist John Andrews, bassist Keven Louis Lareau, and drummerNoah Bond (who played on all three sessions).
A youthful spirit breathes throughout these nine songs. The carnation-adorned school dance serenadeof “I’ll Never Make It”; the starry eyed infatuation of “Is it Magic?”; the first fall leaves on the bus ride toschool on “Living Inside”–all evoke a place of warmth and safety. Declarations like “Don’t Fade Out”,“Let’s Go Out On The Town”, and “Use Your Love” make high demands for life to change, but beg for us,as people, to keep hold of what makes us human. Clarke wrestles with a paradox–the joys of experiencecannot be won without the loss of innocence.
On “Ballad of a Texas King” Clarke sings, ““Hey kid come along... something is wrong... I believe youknow... All this to say, only one way that this can go...” It’sas if he’s reaching out to his younger self,letting him know the changes are inevitable. How do we hang on to a dream? How do we not loseourselves in a world that is lost? The only way out of a nightmare is to keep going. Clarke’s answer lies inhis art,where the search for love and the perfect pop song coalesce and transcend him to that otherplane. –Kyle Avallone