Review: The Clientele, “God Save the Clientele”

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London’s Clientele has been kicking around for ten years now, in that time they’ve become Britain’s foremost “blues” band. Not blues as in Black Keys, but in the specific hues their albums evoke. Suburban Light, the initial collection of singles, is the shade of royal, The Violet Hour, more aquamarine, Strange Geometry, eerie midnight blue, and now, with God Save the Clientele, it’s purely cerulean, even flashes of periwinkle add to the group’s most charming album. Throughout that catalog, they’ve always been fascinated with seasonal change, earthly environments, the natural world, and the tragic relationships that are affected by such things; in that case, God Save is a cloudless sky lazily slouching above a dramatic summer fling.

By releasing their “inner Monkees,” the carefree, but ghostly ominous lead, “Here Comes the Phantom,” resembles a more baroque “Daydream Believer.” Despite having grown musically over the past decade, telling in the complex arrangements that serve more as soft-rock backdrop than focal point, the Clientele trumps the stiff, learned, pomposity of their playing with bright, breathless, a.m. melodies. “Bookshop Cassanova,” has the feel of a Left Banke single never buried in mothballs, instead dusted off and delicately primped every year, without sacrificing its halcyon glisten.

New tricks are experimented with here as well, “The Queen of Seville” adds a bit of twang via steel guitar, “The Dance of the Hours” is a sprightly instrumental channeling Vince Guaraldi or Mike Oldfield’s playful soundtracks, and like most of God Save, “I Hope I Know You’s” contemplative and smiling melancholy, has the feeling you’re staring off into a landscape caught in infinite dusk.

Unfortunately, The Clientele’s allegiance to the late 60’s orchestral chamber pop (i.e. the Zombies, the Hollies, the Turtles) will always leave them pigeonholed as a band that is ephemeral and forgettable, a group more concerned with re-creating the past than moving forward. Paying closer attention to their evolution however, will reveal that they are making bold strokes towards a psychedelic-lite that comfortably fits in modern times.

MP3: “Bookshop Cassanova”
BUY: Amazon.com

  • tim

    Disagree w/ the allegation of retro-affiliation. To me, the Clientele sport a unique sound. (Ok, if they sound like anything, it’s the Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset.”) Saw them recently at Maxwell’s in New Jersey. What I heard was etheral — not ephemeral. Lovely show. Their only fault is monotony — all their songs basically sound the same.