w/Great Lakes, A Decent Animal
Sat. Aug. 5
1055 Johnnie Dodds Blvd.
Traveling is one of the few options we have left for alone time these days, with cellphones tethering us to each other round-the-clock and e-mail boxes pinging every 10 seconds. Of course, you either have to be very wealthy or very unemployed (or both) to be able to just jump on a plane and head to the nearest destination whenever the grind becomes too grueling.
Listening to The Clientele, a three-piece who formed in Hampshire, a small town outside of London, in 1997, is akin to hopping on a train that goes not only to the far reaches of the earth, but also backward and forward indiscriminately through time. Pop the Clientele’s latest CD, Strange Geometry, into the nearest listening device and take a little mental vacation — go on, get the hell out of your own head — and imagine walking through the fog-shrouded streets of England feeling that profoundly British sense of glorious dread. It’ll be great.
Clientele lead singer/guitarist Alasdair MacLean, along with bassist James Hornsey and drummer Mark Keen, succeed very well in this aim. The band somehow simultaneously sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard and everything you’ve ever heard, with vocals dripping with reverb, plenty of Hammond organ, timid brushed percussion, finger-plucked guitar, and sprinklings of gentle strings. They share both sonic qualities and an honest, somewhat melancholy — but not cynical — perspective on life with Love, the seminal L.A. band led by the enigmatic Arthur Lee.
Last year, the Clientele spent eight weeks on tour with Merge Records labelmates Spoon, who hand-picked the band to open for them. Their current jaunt through the States is only their second headlining tour here, and they’re looking forward to playing in smaller market cities like Charleston.
“We all come from small towns ourselves,” says MacLean, “and our music has always had a really little town aesthetic to it. I find it fascinating; I love to see the way our American cousins live, and not just in Manhattan, but everywhere — in Idaho or the Rockies or anywhere at all. Some of the best shows are in these towns because there’s less pressure and you have more of a connection with the audience.”
Although the Clientele have enjoyed critical acclaim and enthusiastic audiences across both the U.S. and Europe, they’ve yet to build much of a following in their home country despite the success of their early 7-inch singles, which the group produced almost exclusively in the early years of their career, eventually collecting most of them on the 2000 Suburban Light LP.
“It’s certainly true that we have more of a profile everywhere in the world except where we come from,” MacLean says. “Which everybody obviously asks me to analyze, but I never can find an answer as to why it is. It’s almost like we’re sending these beautifully written love letters to a girl who we know will never actually read them, who will just throw them in the bin. So the fact that we carry on living and playing here is actually quite heroic in a kind of misguided way.”
A girl would have to be utterly mental to toss out Strange Geometry, the 12-song album that the Clientele released last October, with its motifs of lost loves, flowering plants, and the ever-present fear of fading away silently into the night. The band’s love of musique concrete — electronic music derived from modifying, editing, and splicing together both natural and industrial sounds — shines through most clearly at the beginning of “K,” the fourth track on Strange Geometry, which opens with the distant sound of a lone opera singer, whose voice mingles with rustling and barely-audible footsteps, followed by a short, splendid squalor of noise resembling a dolphin’s call.
Another song from Strange Geometry, “(I Can’t Seem To) Make You Mine,” appeared recently on the soundtrack to the time-travelin’ film The Lake House — not too shabby for a reverb-happy outfit from Hampshire with a penchant for prettiness and a truly timeless sound.