England - Full Moon 133 - 07/30/07
East Brunswick Club, Melbourne, AU, 26.7.07
Since I've been living in Australia, there have been rare occasions when I've missed England. A telephone conversation with my father; a walk through woods that remind me of the English countryside; being at a bar and realising that the only beer to drink is cold and fizzy. The Clientele are a striking reminder of all the things about England that I cherish.
Even before Alasdair Maclean opens his mouth, there's that striking sense of politely quiet suffering combined with poetic aloofness that makes the English so unique. We hate ourselves - but we're still better than you. That's why English comedy is so good - to create laughter out of a sense of futility is to make a dizzying leap of artistic imagination, often involving surreal transformation of the everyday into the sublime.
This is what The Clientele do so well. They're so bloody normal, but there are incredible flashes of brilliance that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Despite their new album God Save The Clientele adopting a more clipped, poppy strut, there's something about their melodies and chord progressions that is so jazzy and woozy that you wonder how on earth they managed to get all the way over from England. Perhaps out of a sheer bloody-minded sense of romance.
Although Maclean's reverb-soaked vocals and shining, fingerpicked guitar arpeggios stand out the most for me, mainly because I'm a guitarist, the rhythm section and new member Mel Draisey on violin and keyboards are impressively tight. The mix is sometimes blurred by too much low end, but songs like "Since K Got Over Me" and "E.M.P.T.Y" from the excellent Strange Geometry sound incredibly rich and full, and are clear highlights in the set. Their older material from Suburban Light and The Violet Hour, lovely though it is, tends to just seem like one long dreamy song about rain, cities and lost love. Their new material is so concise and catchy that it hardly sounds like The Clientele. Strange Geometry stands as their finest hour, where their delicious aesthetic is married to great songs.
I miss England again.
Copyright © 2007 Tim Clarke