Written by Zac Djamoos
It’s been a strange few years as Clearbody’s navigated names and traversed genres. Their earliest material—released primarily under the name Dollhands—shared shoegaze’s affinity for thick walls of feedback but fitted them around songs that were essentially emo tracks. 2020’s One More Day moved away from emo but never fully committed to shoegaze, landing somewhere in-between the two. On their new EP, Bend Into a Blur, Clearbody wades into heavier, darker, murkier territory than ever before, and the result is their best material yet.
“New Essence” is a perfect appetizer for the EP. It shares the most DNA with One More Day; where so much of the rest of Bend Into a Blur is almost oppressively hazy, Eric Smeal’s melodies cut through the fog on “New Essence.” It’s far catchier and brighter than any of the other four tracks, a beefier, cloudier take on One More Day’s fuzzy alt-rock. Closer “Cordelia,” too, strips things back a bit; it wouldn’t feel out of place on One More Day at all, but with its gnarled riffs and Smeal’s confident, cooing delivery, it’s got a different tone than the songs on the record. It’s an update, a tune-up.
Elsewhere Clearbody sounds downright apocalyptic. “Feels Just the Same” is built on a menacing riff and finds Smeal outright screaming for the first time in the band’s catalog, and “This Can’t Leave Us” plods with a tension that suggests some terror is ahead. At the same time, it manages to feature one of the EP’s most infectious choruses.
On the opening “Peering Through,” the band channels Narrow Head for an explosive track that bounces between muted verses and a call-and-response hook. It’s an immediate signal that there’s something different on Bend into the Blur, that this is the next step for Clearbody. Under the layers of reverb and feedback, it’s not impossible to tell this is the same band that churned out bangers like “Quarterback,” but the lessons they’ve learned in the three years since One More Day have paid off in spades. Bend Into a Blur shows a different side of Clearbody, one a little more in tune with the zeitgeist—there’s indeed no shortage of bands doing what Clearbody’s pivoted to here, but it’s equally accurate to say that few are doing it as well as Clearbody.