When I was in my senior year of High School
in 1995, I attended an open campus night school. This school
was a bit different from your average public school; attendance
was not mandatory, on-campus smoking was permitted, and (most
importantly) there were half-hour breaks between classes that
could be spent in any way. For the better part of a year, my
between-class periods were spent driving up the street to get
a cup of coffee and then sitting in my car in the parking lot
listening to music. At this particular time in my life, my favorite
(and most frequently listened-to) albums were Disintegration
by The Cure and Kill Uncle by Morrissey. At that
time the band that I would have formed would have sounded exactly
like Clearlake’s Cedars album.
When I say this, I mean no insult to Clearlake’s relevance
in the current music world, I simply mean that this CD could
very well serve as a soundtrack to the mentality I had in 1995
when all I listened to was Morrissey and The Cure. In fact,
even comparing them to two artists that I hold in such high
esteem is indeed a great compliment.
This album was passed to me by a musical compatriot a few days
ago, and I just can’t stop listening to parts of it. I think
what strikes me is that it really resembles how I think the
Brit-rock sound might have evolved over the past decade had
Oasis not come along. Singer/guitarist Jason Pegg definitely
sounds more like a Morrissey or a Jarvis Cocker than a Gallagher
brother. Additionally, the rhythm section and guitar seem to
have been greatly influenced by The Cure and Siouxsie & the
Banshees. There is virtually no hint of the Coldplay syndrome
that is plaguing current British rock music.
The disc opens with Almost the Same, a track that chugs
along at a good pace instrumentally, with very smooth and lush
vocal melodies on top. The guitar style is along the lines of
recent tracks by Longwave, yet the production very much reminds
me of early My Blood Valentine records. It’s truly a great upbeat
track that will certainly get stuck in your head. The album
makes a shift in mood for the second track The Mind is Evil.
This downbeat number combines the vocal style of Kill
Uncle-era Morrissey with the piano and lush orchestration
of recent Delgados records.
I think the first two tracks on this record are all you need
to hear to make your judgment of whether you love this disc
or hate it; these tracks represent the best of the two different
styles this band seems to favor. The rest of the disc provides
more great orchestration and songwriting, with I’d Like to
Hurt You being the primary stand-out track of the later
half. It appears that most of the other tracks are, while quite
good, just a few steps above filler. They aren’t bottom-of-the-barrel
fodder, but they just don’t hold up to the 3 particular tracks
that I mentioned above.
Lyrically, nothing on the album really stands out. Not that
the lyrics are bad, but they seem to be hinting at the potential
of the band rather than the current state. Everyone seems to
be quite competent on their instruments, and the songwriting
shows definite promise. I see Clearlake as a band on the rise,
having put out a great sophomore effort. Here’s hoping they
continue to improve, for future records could be truly fantastic.