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London-based indie pop band The Clientele have appeared on these pages a few times already. A couple of their albums have appeared high up on the Best Albums lists for the years in which they were released (see here and here) and in their first appearance with “Rain” off their debut release in 2000, I talked a little bit about my introduction with the band. This came in 2003 with the release of their sophomore album and first proper studio album*, “The violet hour”.
I remember being in constant discussion with Jez, my friend and colleague at the time, about the bands we were discovering during our shared favourite post-work activity: trawling the Internet for new and exciting bands. I’m not sure which of us happened upon this particular album first but we were both enamoured with it right off the bat and I’m sure that our other colleagues must have tired of us raving about it. It almost became a running joke to bring them up at least once a conversation.
I’ve been following the group ever since, through the various lineup changes and hiatuses, and though each of their albums have been special, “The violet hour” is still my favourite. It is a collection of tracks that sounded like nothing else at the time and at the same time hinted at music from a bygone era. Track eight was this mellow but peppy number called “Porcelain”. It shared the feel and environment of the rest of the whole, like dewdrops glistening in the bright morning sunlight and gauzy curtains billowing in the warm summer wind. Like the echo of a half-remembered dream. MacLean whispers and croons his la-la-las and the guitars and drums and even that wicked bass line that pops its head in for munchies, they’re all sopping wet with reverb. And the words are not a narrative as much as they are an oil painting.
“Sunlight on the empty house and sunlight on the fields
The cul-de-sac, the law, the tracks, the lane
But the world is porcelain
Yes, the world is porcelain”
Incidentally, “The violet hour” is the only one of The Clientele’s albums that I still don’t have a copy of on my vinyl shelves but this is only because it hasn’t yet been reissued. I was beginning to think I’d never have a copy because I’d heard that the master recordings were lost but I am pretty sure that frontman Alasdair MacLean has since announced that they were found. So far there’s been no reissues announced but perhaps this year for it’s 20th anniversary? One can hope.
*Given that “Suburban light” was more of a compilation of early singles and b-sides, much like Lush’s “Gala” ten or so years earlier.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2003 list, click here.