The Clientele's most recent release, The Lost Weekend
EP, is a minimalist masterpiece, a somber musical nod in the direction of Galaxie 500 and Big Star, Love and Gram Parsons. The London trio also looks to the melancholy pop of Belle and Sebastian and even Burt Bacharach. All comparisons and influences aside, The Clientele's music possesses a soft, warm beauty that will keep you coming back to it.
Propelled by lush, breathy vocals, stunning imagery and simple, quiet arrangements, Lost Weekend
paints the picture of coming down. The high is irrelevant. Could be a lost night holed up in a pub or the natural, sweet nectar of smitten escapades and stolen kisses.
Singer Alasdair Maclean is a storyteller, who on Lost Weekend
is caught up reflecting on missed chances, broken friendships and prevarications of the heart. "Forget my face/ I won't be back/ I hear your friends have turned their backs/ When summer comes/ When rose street winds/ The longing makes you close your eyes," he sings on "Emptily Through Holloway." Maclean's vocals float as the instrumentation creates an elegant, woozy, heart-wrenching soundscape. The mood is bittersweet, achingly beautiful and delicate, recalling Dylan circa Blood on the Tracks.
The EP opens with "North School Drive." Give or take the audible word here and there, the song is composed of lyrics that have clearly been arranged for their syllabic breakdown. The result is an effortless flow that travels along a parallel plane with the subtle piano work of Mark Keen. When Maclean's voice drifts to deliver the line "The headlights on the driveway are a mirage," a dream sequence plays in your head but before you slip away, the track shuffles to a close. For a band of lesser skill, this might come across as terse or halfhearted, but here it works. A certain feeling of dejection carries this track; it feels like a eulogy and possesses a breathtaking sense of finality.
On "Kelvin Parade," The Clientele shed their dream-pop sounds to produce an upbeat track riding on a bouncy, jubilant guitar line a standout performance from guitarist Innes Phillips. Equally strong is the nimble playing of Keen, who jumps from the keys to behind the drum kit, where he proceeds to spin the crash in a seemingly endless pirouette.
The EP's closer is an instrumental, "Last Orders." Its somber piano suggests the image of last call in a South London bar, as the regulars finish their final drink of the night and the inebriated are left to figure out a way home.
Note: the EP is available as an import on the Spanish label Acuarela. Darla Records has a limited supply. There is also a 10" vinyl version out on the UK label Earworm.