THE CLIENTELE

Suburban Light

(Merge)

FOR STARS

We Are All Beautiful People

(Future Farmer)

Though they live half a world away, these restless pop bands

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CD Reviews

THE CLIENTELE

Suburban Light

(Merge)

FOR STARS

We Are All Beautiful People

(Future Farmer)

Though they live half a world away, these restless pop bands could toss and turn in the same bed.

So late at night it's morning, America sleeps while hangovers loom, insecurities lurk, depressions linger. Faced with such endless real-life nightmares, it's no wonder so many people sleep their lives away while countless others are kept awake night after night, emotionally exhausted and bewildered by life's little fuck-yous. For the hopeless, sleepless souls tossing and turning through the wee hours, however, rest assured that London's Clientele and San Francisco's For Stars feel your pain. Suburban Light is the Clientele's first stateside full-length, and already the trio sound so tired of the day-to-day that they've resigned themselves to nights of awkward introspection: Just listen to vocalist-guitarist Alasdair MacLean solemnly coo, "I'm going out of my mind." Recalling the haunted interiority and melancholia of Nick Drake and a less cloying Belle & Sebastian, the album sounds full of nostalgia for lives they've never had—and will never have. As if that's not heartbreaking enough, We Are All Beautiful People, For Stars' astonishing third release of lilting, hymnlike lullabies, opens with Carlos Forster pleading, "I just wanna feel like it's OK." Full of melody-laden atmospherics and Slumber Party-like droning and dreaming, the album is an utterly inspired search for life beyond this world's insomnia-inducing torment. And when the album ends with the stark promise that "If I could, I would free your heart of pain," it's as if both of these bands made their albums specifically for those of us whose late-night listening isn't to stay awake so much as to stay alive. Jimmy Draper

KINGS OF CONVENIENCE

Quiet Is the New Loud (Astralwerks)

Less smirk, less perk, but otherwise this duo aim for the lilt and folk of Belle & Sebastian—and end up right on target.

If quiet is, in fact, the new loud, the Kings of Convenience are the new Papa Roach. That is to say, if quiet were to take over the airways and coax teenage ears into forlorn, emotive submission, this Norwegian duo could lead the gentle crusade. As warm and timeless as Simon and Garfunkel or the Red House Painters, KOC blend acoustic guitar pop with a Scandinavian reading of bossa nova and dour, broken-heart narratives. Established fans may be dismayed to learn that Quiet Is the New Loud contains six songs from the pair's Kindercore Records debut, while newcomers expecting the soft thrill of female vocals will be equally troubled to discover that the fetching lass on the record's cover is for display only. And, while the songs don't pack much of a punch—imagine Nick Drake fronting a laid-back Beach Boys—there is an element of calming sincerity that's powerful in its own way. Of the 12 songs, nearly all of them center on missing the mark and losing a lover. The album's opener, for example, has Eirik Glambek Be singing glumly, "Even though she's only giving me pain/I'll be on my knees to feed her" over the stark, melancholy sound of nimble fingers singling out guitar strings. Laura Learmonth

SEAN CROGHAN

From Burnt Orange to Midnight Blue

(In Music We Trust)

Ex-Crackerbash and Jr. High guy joins the solo pack with satisfying results.

Portland's defining songwriters of the past decade or so would have to be Elliott Smith (moved on to bigger things), Pete Krebs (still here and perfecting his craft), and Sean Croghan. While Smith and Krebs have established themselves as productive solo artists, Croghan—formerly of Crackerbash and Jr. High—is just now getting around to his first record without a true band behind him. Fortunately, it was worth the wait. Croghan does not possess Smith's arsenal of pop smarts and he's not as versatile a musician as Krebs, but he's unrelentingly soulful, and for perhaps the first time, he's really got his voice trained to respond to his demands. In the past, Croghan's voice has been a tricky beast that occasionally got away from him, overwhelming the material with buckets of emotional fireworks. On Burnt Orange he displays an able range and a firm grip. The first two tracks, "Gweneveire" and "Cupid's Credit Card" are first-rate lost-love anthems, aching and yearning like a post-punk Smokey Robinson. On "Little Miss Whiplash," Croghan maintains a quivery falsetto that at times trails off into thin air during this tale of carnival seduction and regret. By the time we get to "Otis Tolstoy," Croghan is testifying his ass off like a sweaty, sexed-up revival preacher. It's a definite high moment in the Croghan catalog. Hopefully there's more where that came from. John Chandler

CLUTCH

Pure Rock Fury

(Atlantic)

It came from the '70s! Clutch's balls too brassy to deny.

Clutch play (a) mullet, (b) stoner, (c) cock, and (d) sludge rock without the slightest nudge of irony. After 10 wonderful seconds of ear-splitting, album-opening feedback (which, as it turns out, would make much more sense on a Sub Pop record), Pure Rock Fury goes subterranean—and I mean that weird kind of subterranean that shoots straight to your groin but somehow has nothing to do with sex. Remember Clint, the "superdominant male in a '50s greaser uniform" from Dazed and Confused? This is his soundtrack to kicking the shit out of flippant brainiacs. The only examples of anything remotely reminiscent of rock 'n' roll circa 2001 are the textured, underwater drum treatments that complete "Red Horse Rainbow" and the jagged hip-hop bastardization of "Careful With That Mic." Guitarist Tim Sult's work can be summarized in an aptly archaic phrase: He's got chops. I'm pleased to report that Neil Fallon's "awww, yeah" baritone yields lyrics that are clever and hilarious ("You look like Snuffleupagus and Australopithecus/Me Cray, you Abacus" and "Oh I digress/you play Sorry/I play chess" are my faves). Pure Rock Fury plays like a graduate dissertation set to Nazareth. Been there, done that my ass. Andrew Bonazelli

 
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