A short while ago, there was discussion that the UK group, The Clientele, would be calling it quits, and perhaps this is still true. Regardless, I was taken aback, and a little saddened. I’ve been listening to the group, and their pop soundscapes for some time, so I was happy to know that if they were calling it quits that I would least get one more album; that record being Bonfires on the Heath.
Not surprisingly, the group brought out the same old same old on their latest release, which isn’t entirely a bad thing in my book. This is one group that’s never needed to change, no matter what they put out. One should note, however, that their musical etchings are as detailed as the cover art to the current album, layer upon layer of sounds molded together to create one entity.
As I listen to “I Wonder Who We Are,” the opening track, I can’t help but notice that they share some odd similarities to my faves, Belle and Sebastian. Jangling guitars, and a knack for making mono-syllabic lyrics fit so well into the song structure, but what I think is still holding the band back this time is Alisdair Maclean’s vocals. For some reason they just don’t always seem to fit the music; there’s no correlation at times.
Still, this is the perfect fall piece of music. As each night brings a variance in weather, so too, does this album. It’s as if you’re walking with the group through each of their songs. The title track slowly meanders, as one would on a simple walk through the neighborhood on one of those cool windy nights. You see, it’s hard to tie down the precise sound of this album, or any of its songs, as you’re clearly affected by the mood they successfully create.
If you had to pick out a standout track here, for me, it would be “Jennifer and Julia.” It is the one song that I think epitomizes the years of work this group has put into their songwriting. Subtle horn backing and Maclean’s vocals all seem to fall perfectly into alignment on this album. This song is what makes you fall in love with this band, and it’s great to see that despite the years, and possible break-up, that they still have the knack for writing something as sublime as this.
Sure, there are tracks one can dismiss, like “Sketch,” which is a track that seems like simple album filler, but when you come to something like “Never Saw Them Before” you can clearly see what people enjoyed about this band from the get go. If you’re looking for one of those records that changes as often as you do, but clearly keeps you grounded, then you’ll want to check out Bonfires on the Heath, a culmination of pristine, moody pop, years in the making by The Clientele.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/05-Jennifer-And-Julia.mp3]
Download: The Clientele – Jennifer And Julia [MP3]