From the ashes we shall rise, or at least the former members of Unicorns, Alden Penner, and Arcade Fire, Brendan Reed, believe this. They have risen from their past with the formation of a new group, Clues. Their self-titlted album is out now on Constellation, and while it may not demonstrate the brilliance the two are capable of creating, it has some moments worthy of highlighting in your music catalog.
You see the Unicorns resemblance immediately, as the opening track “Haarp” begins with a quiet little whisper before slowly picking up the pace. As the pace is quickened to a steady trot, the tension rises, and even the guitar styling is so similar that you would swear that this is a B-Side from Penner’s former mates. This is either a complaint for those who loved that project, or an place worthy of garnering interest among new hordes of fans.
It would be great if we could discard that reference, but unfortunately we cannot; as of this point in time, Penner is being marked by the success of Nic Thorburn. While you can find similarities in the playing styles of the two former Unicorns, it seems that what sets Clues apart from the past is the jaggedness that he seems to hold onto. “Approach the Throne” is full of just that, as the choppy guitars hammer away. It’s not the sort of pop sensibility of Islands, but one should be happy is set to making his own mark here. “Cave Mouth” similarly shares the affinity for disjointed melodies and angular guitars, with the lyrics being turned down in the mix so that the music takes the focus.
There are moments that do approach chasing that pop sensibility, or at least the ballad aesthetic. “You Have My Eyes Now” and “Ledmonton” are just a few songs that show the slower side of things; these songs unfortunately don’t encourage the listener’s attention span, which render them, sadly, as throwaways. Not throwaways necessarily, but the mellow moments are not very successful here, though “Ledmonton” does sport some chanting choral moments near the songs ending.
Oddly, the Arcade Fire influence is not really here, unless you tie it all in to some of the zany moments that exist throughout. But it’s clear that Reed’s style of drumming was not the founding influence that broke his previous band.
In the end, you wonder whether it’s fair to judge a band by it’s members former labors. Is such a judgment just? Probably not, but that is the unforutunate truth in dealing with Clues. You look at the sparkling moments here, and look back to their past; you look at the dull moments and wonder where this band will go. Truth is, only time will tell.
Download: Clues – Perfect Fit [MP3]