Quirky, eclectic and oddly charming, “Utility Drawer” marks a huge turning point for Crush Limbo, the stage name of musician Colm Clark.
After a fire gutted his North Bergen home, Clark spent a year or two in hotels, couch-surfed with friends and family, and eventually wound up on his girlfriend’s couch in Brooklyn. There, he wrote and recorded last year’s intensely political “Purveyors of Mayhem” while losing several jobs, then catching and recovering from COVID-19.
It was, as he puts it, “a not-quite-heroic, but definitely Homeric odyssey ... or ‘odd’yssey, if you will.”
In the fall of 2020, Clark returned to the house where a basement fire had destroyed his home studio two years earlier and struggled to rebuild not only his surroundings but also his family, as he reunited with his recently returned teenage son.
“It was time, yet again, to turn my attention to domestic matters; time not to look back on what was lost, but instead to be grateful for all that had been gained these last few years,” he said. “Everything else? Well, we shoved it all into the utility drawer with all the old batteries, thumbtacks, matchbooks, paper clips and shoestrings.”
Clark’s resume includes stints in several bands, as well as credits writing music for Off-Broadway, television, and the movies. But as Crush Limbo, he records bedroom pop in the style of New Jersey’s legendary home-recording eccentric R. Stevie Moore, with a hint of ‘70s oddball Harry Nilsson.
“Utility Drawer” makes an apt title for the result.
While there’s a rustic charm to this record, Clark’s home production wizardry keeps things elevated far above “lo-fi.” He envelopes his shaggy vocals in strummed ukulele, swelling spaghetti western strings, ‘60s doo-wop vocals, pizzicato mandolin -- and that’s just the first track, the ebulliently optimistic “Next Nice Day.”
“On the next nice day,” he sings, “Gonna laugh and dream our cares away / Know what it means to play / You’ll be The Queen and I your attache / On the next nice day.”
There’s a Great American Songbook romanticism to “Leave (Well Enough Alone)” and “The Science of Wait,” an old-fashioned waltz, and a piano/ukulele instrumental. There’s also a bit of local color and topicality.
“The Will and the Wedding Gown” references North Hudson Park, “where I once again stroll and dream,” Clark said.
“The lead single ‘The Woke Patrol’ is my nod to the world around me, even as I continue to navel gaze,” he said. “I don’t pick a side in the ‘woke’ debate; the song is more parable than polemic. It sounds like the spy-fi soundtrack to a movie inspired by a Philip K. Dick novel, except that, in fact, it’s the soundtrack to our lives right now.”
On the daydreaming “Big Boy Toy Fund,” Clark suggests to his teenage son that they use his college fund to splurge on some fun.
“Why do we invest in such fanciful plans / that never get cashed in for moments?” he asks. “Let’s you and I buy some booze and a crossbow / the hell with good sense and propriety!”
The album ends on a high note with the post-COVID anthem “Reach Out in the Darkness,” a soulful strut with the celebratory chorus, “I think it’s so groovy now that people are finally getting together.”
It’s a groovy ‘60s love-in of a song about reaching out and coming together that could have been an outtake from “Hair.”
“Utility Drawer” was mastered by Grammy-nominated engineer Joe Lambert, whose JLM Studios is in Jersey City, and is available for streaming or download at crushlimbo.bandcamp.com.
JC Music Scene hosts its second showcase and mixer on Thursday, June 10, at 902 Brewing, 101 Pacific Ave., Jersey City.
The 7 p.m. free event features performances by Ki Bohiti, Leeroy Green, Nizz Sentine, Lazy Tiger and Brendan Mieles.
The “Come as You Are Fest” takes place at 15 Wilkinson Ave., Jersey City on Saturday, June 12, from 7 to 10 p.m. The free event showcases different arts from Jersey.
“Musicians will perform, designers will sell clothes, and artists will have art hung up to sell,” according to the organizers. “We call it ‘Come as You Are’ because we want to create an environment where creatives can come and be themselves, show their art, and be appreciated for the art they make. It’s also a great place to meet other creatives and network.”
Scheduled performers include Trey Budden, Peteyxkraze, Kurt Donavon, Rokkstar Nova, Skav, Cratos, Blanco Fendi, Yung $teezi AB, and Cashoutkenzo.
Jersey City’s LUX Performing Arts program hosts its summer kickoff on Sunday, June 13, outdoors on Jersey Ave between Sixth and Seventh streets.
The free event kicks off at 6:30 p.m. and will include performances by cast members from the LUX productions of Spring Awakening, Matilda and Stoop Opera.