Friday, November 10, 2006

Familiar Ghosts

The Clientele (Art-Pop)
LP: Strange Geometry (2006)

As a small but devoted following continues to champion their music, I know I’m not alone in feeling there’s hardly a band to touch The Clientele. The transcendent,
deceptively effortless Strange Geometry is proof positive they are one of Britain's top groups.

It's true The Clientele have in the past been criticized for hardly deviating from their signature sound. Like their previous CD The Violet Hour, Strange Geometry resolutely sustains its emotional mood. But what a mood. Like familiar ghosts, lyrical motifs appear and reappear as songs unfold. However, rather than creating a feeling of repetition, the emotional tone is heightened, the unity of feeling maintained.

A common Clientele theme - the bittersweet tension between sadness and heightened emotional awareness - is addressed on the delicate I Can’t Seem to Make You Mine, an ode to frustrated passion distinguished by a typically gorgeous guitar pattern tremoloing its way to heaven. On E.M.P.T.Y., jangly guitar lines interweave with a barely audible violin as the protagonist sighs for the dreams of beautiful losers.

But few pop songs have described the disembodied agony of a marooned heart like the exquisite Since K Got Over Me. Instrumentally, every element is perfectly restrained and delicately placed, while Alasdair MacLean’s breathy vocals are resigned and wisely sad:

All my senses shot
My hands are fists

I’m really tired of making lists

It’s just this emptiness I can’t chase away

And when the evening paints the streets

It’s like walking on a trampoline

A profound meditation on echoes of lost love and transfixing urban ennui, Strange Geometry is a superb album.

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