It feels odd to be writing about this CD as the setting springtime sun is streaming in through my bedroom window. Odd, because I’m completely sober. Although The Clientele’s music has always had this hazy swagger to it, due mainly to Alasdair Maclean’s sighing vocals and the gauzy production, it’s especially moreso on this EP. This is music for hangovers, or to be more accurate, for easing yourself out of them and back into some semblance of lucidity. Of course, given the EP’s length, you’ll have to listen to it several times, but that’s a very small price to pay.
The Clientele’s previous releases, such as the stellar A Fading Summer EP, have proved them to be a supreme pop act, not so much paying homage to the jangly pop of yore (e.g., Love, Nick Drake, The Velvet Underground) as channeling its breezy spirit into their music. However, this release finds the band delving more into the atmosphere that, until now, has always been that hazy film giving their music it’s surreal touch.
One of the Clientele’s beauties has been that, beneath the lo-fi production, their pop hooks were almost painfully good. “North School Drive” eschews that. Instead, a sparse piano melody and drumming are the musical counterpoint to Maclean’s vocals, which feel so transitory as to not even be there. The hustle and bustle of “Boring Postcard“ ‘s field recordings gives way to the album’s centerpiece, the strangely affecting “Emptily Through Holloway.”
Here, Maclean sings “Friday night to Sunday morning I go on/I don’t know if I am really here at all/Monday down to Friday night/I work all day/Move emptily so emptily through Holloway,” his voice caught in a perpetual yawn that emphasizes the lyrics’ ennui. Later, when he sings “You said your happiness was gone… though there’s no happiness and there’s no love,” the music’s subtle turn adds just that right tinge of heartache. The whole song rings of that disconnection, that fatigue one feels after staying up too late, going to too many parties, and feeling the bittersweet meaninglessness of it all.
So I guess it’s only fitting that the EP ends with the lovely “Last Orders,” a haunting piano instrumental from drummer Mark Keen. Listening to it reminds me of heading home in the morning after a long weekend. The sunrise is a pale sliver of yellow, my head’s a jumble of noises, names, and faces, and all I want to do is go to bed and let it wear off.