Clues - Photo by Riny van Eijk

Photograph by Riny van Eijk

What happens when you put a member of the Unicorns into a car on a collision course with another vehicle traveling at a high velocity carrying a member of the Arcade Fire? The question assumes that we have passed our calculus classes and withstanding that we can find the answer in the smaller venues underlying Montréal’s music scene. The resultant impact has created Clues, more specifically Alden Penner and Brendan Reed along with other Montréal musicians Ben Borden, Lisa Gamble, and Nick Scribner. Employing multiple drummers and a bent Commodore 64, the band’s sharp hooks and spastic jams will excite you in ways that calculus never could. Their self-titled debut is due for release on May 19, on hometown label Constellation Records.

Clues began building two summers ago. Masked by whispered rumours and hyped-up concerts, they played a series of unadvertised shows in small venues finally debuting publicly at Pop Montréal. Their arrival on the city’s already burgeoning pop scene has been nothing short of phenomenal, with their strong ties to the independent music community and a tendency to experiment with their extensive collection of instruments, Clues can do no wrong. Their eponymous album is a reflection of just that, their ability to create a palette of music that is reminiscent of early Unicorns, employing abrupt changes in a mosaic of instrumentation. Clues hop through melodies with a baroque twist on songs like ‘Perfect Fit’ leaving listeners scrambling for their clavichords as they spiral into a thumping bass line.

‘Remember Severed Head’ forms a diverse range of harmonies blanketed by Alden Penner’s imaginative vocals that tiptoe through a minefield of drum kicks. Much of Clues album is like throwing a rhythmic gymnast into North Korea’s Demilitarized Zone. Several moments consist of elegant leaps and graceful spins but ultimately there is satisfaction to be found in the rain of bloody mist that ensues after a tragic misstep. ‘Cave Mouth’ is another monument to Clues eclectic apparatus of amazing sounds, cymbals clashing through interim xylophone solos and Brendan Reed building a crescendo of instrumental dynamics. Grab your favourite set of headphones, throw on Clues and prepare to rock out – calculus textbook not required.

(Photograph by Riny van Eijk)

Clues – Perfect Fit
Clues – Remember Severed Head
Clues – Ledmonton

Tags: ,

— , May 4, 2009    5 Comments

awesome review jan. i love clues!

— dona, May 4, 2009

really nice review Jan. I like these videos you posted, and Ledmonton is neat. Don’t know if I’ve acquired a taste for all of their work yet though … might take a bit more advanced calc to digest it.

— Sal, May 5, 2009

As a big fan of the Unicorns, I have to say that I’m agreeing with Sal so far, this might need a bit more listening. Although if there’s one thing great that Clues has shown us, it’s how much more important Alden Penner was than Nicholas Thorburn in developing the unicorns sound. Jan, I’m loving the tracks you posted here much more than anything I ever heard from Islands. But Human Highway was fun.

— Daniel, May 5, 2009

very good review.. totally agree Clues can do no wrong, this album is a masterpiece, never skips a beat

— dave, May 23, 2009

The album is great. Ledmonton is definitely my highlight so far.

Regarding the person who said that Alden was more responsible for the Unicorns sound: huh? Are you kidding?

The Unicorns were pretty eclectic with their sound. If you think of Jellybones, you think of Nick. If you think of Child Star, you think of Alden. Their album was amazing because it was diverse, but unified in their weirdness and pop sensibilities. Maybe you are saying that because Alden stayed more on the indie/low-fi sense of the genre while Nick has gotten a little more grandiose.

Personally, I’d say that Island’s “Arm’s Way” is the best album to come out from Nick, Alden and any combination of the two of them (yes, including “Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?”.

Anyway, they are both very talented and unique, and I love their work. I can’t wait to hear more from Clues in the future.

— Greg, May 28, 2009