A deserved commercial breakthrough continues to elude this wonderful London band.
Chris White 2010-09-06
Every time The Clientele announce a new album, their small but fiercely loyal fan base holds its breath in anticipation. Could this be the release that finally brings a truly wonderful band the wider acclaim they so richly deserve?
Few artists of recent times share this London four-piece’s ability to evoke a sense of mood and place. Their five albums of shimmeringly brilliant, exquisitely arranged songs are a near-perfect soundtrack to the sense of isolation many people experience living in the UK’s capital city; whether it’s travelling home alone on an empty night bus at 3am, or the blissful solitude of strolling through one of the capital’s parks on a glorious summer’s day. Yet despite the excellence of last year’s Bonfires on the Heath, their most immediate and commercial offering yet, a breakthrough remains elusive.
Minotaur, a collection of eight new and unreleased songs, probably won’t change their fortunes very much. Existing devotees will be delighted that a group not known for their prolific output is issuing more material so soon after Bonfires, but the truth is this is largely disappointing fare by The Clientele’s lofty standards, and feels more like filler than a cohesive new project.
On the plus side, the title-track is quintessential Clientele with its jangling guitar, elegantly wistful strings and whispered vocals, while Paul Verlaine is a good example of the more upbeat, toe-tapping style they have gradually introduced into their sound. In contrast, songs like Jerry and Strange Town are pleasant but underwhelming, and The Green Man’s abortive attempt to emulate the magical spoken-word style of one of the band’s greatest songs, Losing Haringey, ends up sounds like a poetry reading held in an air raid shelter.
Judged objectively, Minotaur is a good if somewhat slight record, with enough quality to comfortably surpass most music likely to be released this year. But when compared to The Clientele’s previous work, this is one for the completists rather than an essential purchase, and potential converts would be wiser to seek out Suburban Light or Strange Geometry to hear this band at its marvellous best.
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