were still living in their hometown of Galway, [when] The Clockworks’ James McGregor found himself taking refuge from the drudgery of his 9-5 in a number of café’s and pubs during his lunch break. Infuriated by the plastic world around him and nauseous with the monotony of a rat-run routine, his paranoid thoughts and pent-up rage spilled into a song that dares to point out the failings of an ailing society.’
Having carved an uninspiring and always-level career as a nine-to-fiver for many years, I recall with a blend of fondness and rage the period when I use to hide out in various pubs – off the beaten track so as to avoid colleagues and management – and chip out bi of writing for various projects, ranging from short stores, reviews, and whatever book I was working on at the time. My immediate environment and the drudge of the job almost invariably coloured my words. Being moved to an out-of-town office without even so much as access to a pub (Boots or Asda for a lunchtime meal deal proved to be even more crushing) put paid to this practise. Sometimes you just don’t know when you’ve got it good.
Anyway: we learn that , ‘Inspired by the straight-up social commentary of lyrical icons like John Cooper Clarke, Mike Skinner, and Ray Davies of The Kinks, ‘Can I Speak To A Manager?’ sees McGregor exercising his songwriting abilities with a similar no-nonsense and observational approach.’
Against a tight, almost Shellac-like rhythm section centres around nagging bass groove, overlaid with some choppy guitars, McGregor cranks out a postmodern intertext of references as he narrates the everyday frustration of dealing with call centres and how a simple request can escalate into an extended exercise in existential angst. It’s relatable: how many times have you found yourself getting nowhere and saying ‘can I speak to a manager please?’ Only you know it’s futile, because managers all too often know less than their staff and give a while lot less of a fuck, too.
With a memorable riff and an obvious but grabbing hook, ‘Can I Speak to A Manager?’ is a corking single that, released in another era, would be a post-punk classic.