Some might remember The Clientele as the purveyors of the surprise #1 album in my Best albums of 2017 back in December. Well, I’ve been loving on this London-based indie pop band for quite some time.
My first encounter with them was their second album, 2003’s “The violet hour”, a reverb-drenched, 60s psych influenced album. They expanded their sound some with string arrangements on “Strange geometry“ in 2005 and following a tour in 2006, added violinist/keyboard player, Mel Draisey to the fold, ensuring more lovely strings for future recordings. “God save The Clientele” does not disappoint in this regard, also including the use of pedal steel and slide guitar to really take their already beautifully full sound even further.
Recorded in the States, where they oddly seem to be more popular than they are in their home country, “God Save The Clientele” is notable among all their albums up to this point for having some honest to goodness and obviously upbeat pop numbers. It initially took me aback, hearing something breathily sung by frontman Alasdair MacLean that I might be able to dance to. Incidentally, it was while The Clientele were on support for this album in the spring of 2007 that I got to see them live for the first time with my good friend Jez, another big fan of the group. And though we didn’t dance, there was plenty to enjoy about the set.
For those that enjoy delicate and lilting psychedelic pop, “God Save The Clientele” might just be your thing. I highly recommend giving them a shot and you could do worse than to start with one of my three picks for you below.
“Winter on Victoria Street”: As I mentioned above, there were some obvious pop numbers on this album and though they were a bit of a surprise, I would count them among my favourites on the album, and this one is included. The bopping piano meander provides the song its structure and both a rhythm and a melody for MacLean to “da da da” along to. Then, he loops his own vocals back so that he is singing in round with himself, a fun effect that reflects the “haunting” theme in the lyrics, a malevolence outside the house where he is trying to “get off” with a girl. Whoops.
“Here comes the phantom”: Speaking of boppy numbers, the opening tune on the album almost has a “Sweet Caroline” feel, guitars and peppy drums marching in line. And in between such synchronized rhythms are string flourishes that flit and flutter like singing birds. It all feels idyllic and full of sunshine, not at all resembling the crime fighting superhero stories hinted at in the title. Indeed, the lyrics are all wind in the leaves and summer sun and picking flowers. Lovely stuff.
“Bookshop casanova”: Ah yes. Here’s the song. One of the best song titles ever and very likely my favourite out of all The Clientele’s tunes. It’s that ticky-tack tapping on the cymbal and the driving guitar that really does it, and yes, I just said driving guitar in relation to Alasdair MacLean and company. Then, there’s the lovely touch by Mel Draisey’s violin and a wonderful song becomes perfection. And really at its core, the song is about one bookshop clerk attempting seduce another, love in the quietest and most unassuming of places. “Now see that dying summer moon, it’s shining just for me and you.” What a nice thought.
For the rest of the albums in this list, check out my Best Albums page here.