Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Walking In The Park

Review of The Clientele’s Bonfires On The Heath

Photo By Andy WillsherAndy WillsherMy trip to London last May yielded no shortage of fond and lasting memories, but one of the most vivid is also one of the most unremarkable and inexplicable. My plan for my first visit to the city was pretty much to pick a particular district or two for each day I was there and just wander – one day, the West End, the next day, Soho, Covent Garden and Westminster, the day after, the East End and Greenwich. Greenwich wasn’t a place I had any particular prior affinity for, but I was told it was worth the extended tube ride to get out of the city for a bit and the Royal Observatory, marker of the Prime Meridian, was worth a gander. So I went and did the straddle-two-hemispheres thing, and before heading back down, I stopped and sat at the top of the observatory hill in Greenwich Park, gazing down at the expansive park and the enormity of London behind it, and that image just burned into my mind.

The point of this little meander down memory lane being that if there was a soundtrack for that moment, or even the trip as a whole, it would be The Clientele. Not literally – I don’t really listen to much music when I travel – but there’s not really another band out there right now that feels more like London to me. And that’s interesting because they don’t evoke the typical images of the city, not the history, the culture or the energy – instead, they sound like a respite from all of that. A pause, a stepping out from the non-stop hustle and commotion and taking a moment to oneself in a patch of greenery, filtered through the gauzy haze of memory.

The band’s last two records God Save The Clientele and Strange Geometry are my go-to records for when I want to recapture that feeling of aimless freedom and their latest, Bonfires On The Heath, slides in quite nicely alongside them. It moves at an easy cadence, occasionally with an extra spring in its step or a Spanish accent, but throughout, Alisdair Maclean’s gentle vocals are buoyed by Mel Draisey’s backing vox over a shimmering bed of tremoloed guitars, tinkling pianos and spiraling trumpet, every note capturing the very essence of Autumn’s dusk. The Clientele indeed have a specific recipe they adhere to from album to album, but it’s one that transports me almost instantly to my happy place which, apparently, is the top of a hill in Greenwich. I had been debating whether or not I wanted to go back to London next Spring or maybe visit somewhere I haven’t been before (namely Tokyo) but I think I’ve just made up my mind.

MP3: The Clientele – “Harvest Time”
MP3: The Clientele – “I Wonder Who We Are”
Stream: The Clientele / Bonfires On The Heath
MySpace: The Clientele

And from one of my favourite English bands to another, Lucky Soul have begun streaming the a new taste of their forthcoming second album, still untitled but due out in the early part of next year. “White Russian Doll” will be released as a single on January 11 and, alongside “Whoa Billy”, make a pretty good argument for this possibly/probably being one of the pop highlights of 2010. Mayhap I should time any visits to the UK to coincide with some gigs? Wouldn’t be the first time I went out of my way to see them.

Stream: Lucky Soul – “White Russian Doll”
MP3: Lucky Soul – “Whoa, Billy”

SX interviews Patrick Wolf.

Interview has a brief chat with Oliver Sim of The xx. The band is set to start a North American tour tonight that hooks up with Friendly Fires in Austin next week and swings up to Toronto on December 2 for a show at the Phoenix. Things have been pretty quiet since the drama a few weeks ago with guitarist Baria Quereshi’s exhaustion forcing the cancellation of a few shows – can one assume that everything and everyone is back on track?

Echo & The Bunnymen’s North American tour, on the other hand, was knocked completely off track last week when they cancelled the whole jaunt on account of red tape and tax demands from the IRS. Glad we got them in town when we did. Ian McCulloch has a conversation with Spinner.

A trailer for the forthcoming Mogwai live documentary Burning, which premieres in Copenhagen this week, has emerged. It looks quiet. Then loud. And intense all the way through.

Trailer: Burning

Minnesota Public Radio is streaming a studio session with The Mountain Goats.

The Magnetic Fields have announced details of their next album, which will be entitled Realism and is due out on January 26 of the new year. Details, cover art and track listing at Exclaim!

Magnet plays over/under with the repertoire of The Flaming Lips.

NPR is streaming a live Mountain Stage concert from Yo La Tengo.

Beatroute talks to head Hidden Camera Joel Gibb. They play the Opera House on December 5.

Yeah he was just here on Saturday, but he’s coming back. That’s Justin Townes Earle and the date is March 1, 2010, at the Horseshoe.

MP3: Justin Townes Earle – “Midnight At The Movies”

This batch of show announcements didn’t even really need formal announcements, but consider them official – the Skydiggers holiday residency at the Horseshoe on December 18 and 19, Elliott Brood ringing in New Year’s Eve at Lee’s Palace and The Sadies doing the same at the Horseshoe – tickets for all shows $20 in advance.

The Word has assembled a really cool Google maps mash-up, marking the locations of dozens? hundreds? of the images found on famous and not-as-famous album covers. Consider your morning/afternoon/evening well and truly wasted.

By : Frank Yang at 8:31 am
Category: General

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

RSS Feed for this post8 Responses.
  1. stytzer says:

    Lovely post! Just reminded me that the last (and only) time I was in Greenwich was way back in…2001. Have no problems remembering the view and you’re absolutely right! It’s just spectacular. And great news on Lucky Soul btw!

  2. giselle says:

    i’d hate to dissuade you from a trip to london – it’s one of my favourite cities and there’s always tons of gigs to check out, but …. tokyo shouldn’t be missed – i don’t think i’ve ever been anywhere that i’ve felt more like a foreigner but also completely safe, and the mt fuji rock festival usually has a pretty good lineup? and just to make sure this comment is still about music, if you get a chance, check out local natives – i saw them last week in vancouver and they were rather superb

  3. Frank Yang says:

    finances allowing, then both Toyko and London will happen next year. Tokyo may wait till the Fall, we’ll see.

  4. bike says:

    Check out the new Flaming Lips video. Featuring hardcore nudity.

  5. bike says:

    Forgot to post. Sorry.

  6. thedprs says:

    when i discovered your page a long time back i went to the archives to see what your review was of the clientele. if i recall correctly it was the show where they opened for spoon and you didnt tear them apart, but darn close. i couldn’t understand it. based on your other likes they seemed to be right up your alley. i was going to write you one time to ask you to give them another shot. im glad they found you, or im glad you bumped into them again.

  7. Frank Yang says:

    yup, I wasn’t too kind to them in reviewing that spoon show but it really was the wrong setting for them, and I was also standing right in front of Alisdair’s amp so it was pretty much a face full of bright, tremoloed guitar the whole set.

    And to be fair, they did get a helluva lot better as of Strange Geometry. So we met halfway.

  8. The Daily Growl says:

    Baria Quereshi has now officially left the xx. Announced yesterday.You’ve probably heard. “personal differences”