Wednesday, November 11th, 2009
Walking In The Park
Review of The Clientele’s Bonfires On The Heath
Andy 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.