The Clientele wear their influences on their sleeve. Taking inspiration from 60s pop acts like the Zombies but exuding a charm all their own, they return with their fourth album Bonfires on the Heath on Merge Records. The band has been around in some form since the early 90s and have released a steady output of music throughout the 2000s, though somehow they have managed to elude my awareness until now. After reading a blurb on their website stating that they approved of surrealist poetry and outlawed shouting and guitar solos, I decided to give them a listen.
While listening, I had a sense of deep familiarity, not in the sense that I’ve heard this many times before, but the feeling of putting on a beloved and well-worn hat. This warmth and comfort permeates through the album, which leans toward the softer, introspective side of the pop spectrum. Though they seem simple pop songs, there’s a startling amount of depth. The distant sound to Alasdair MacLean’s vocals adds a lonely quality to the lyrics. Occasional horn flourishes appear in tracks such as ‘I Wonder Who We Are’, one of the more upbeat tracks present, which is marked by the use of slide guitar. Understated keys and strings accompany many tracks on the album, further adding to the atmosphere. It’s impressive that so many sounds that would often be played as gimmicks are instead woven organically into the music, never serving as a distraction.
I’m really not sure how I’ve missed out on the Clientele for so long. I can’t make a comparison to previous albums in terms of quality, but I can safely say that Bonfires on the Heath stands well on its own. I rarely form an attachment to bands this quickly, but the Clientele have managed to win me over.
Tags: The Clientele