Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Clues: Clues

Clues at Noise Pop 2009, from the HAD Archive

We've been anxious to get our hands on Clues' self titled debut ever since we heard news of the band last winter. March's show at Noise Pop served to solidify our excitement, and when the middle of May came around, we snatched up a copy.

So what do we make of it? Well, in short, it's largely what we expected. Put differently: it's not a terribly surprising record, but it is a very good one. The lack of surprise lays somewhere in mastermind Alden Penner's style, which is so characteristic that it's difficult to change up. His distinctive vocals, the layered, percussive, lo fi sound, and the oddball lyrics all combine to create a record that is so similar in sonics to The Unicorns, that you wouldn't be mistake it for being a follow up.

That being said, Clues certainly has their own vibe, and one Unicorn does not make a pair. The Clues record is darker, more edgy, and more minor keyed than The Unicorns ever were. Even the record's most upbeat moments left us with something of a sense of unease that we couldn't exactly put our finger on. It felt remarkably distant and cold in a way that surprised us given the excitement and fun of the band's live show.

And in the end, that's what is missing from the record: the band's live sound. The show we saw in March at the Rickshaw was so full of life that it was like a cup overflowing. Every person in the room left wanting more, and doing so with a smile on their face. By contrast, the record is cold and disconnected. Our only hypothesis (and, to be frank, our hope) is that the record was made as the band were finding their feet, and that the next release will yield a bit more...soul?

Despite these shortcomings, the record is still unquestionably enjoyable. It's great to have some new material from Penner, and the fact that the band delivers so solidly in a live environment just serves to build the foundation of the songs. As the band embarks on their summer tour, we do have to say to you, dear reader: missing them would be a mistake.

mp3: Clues - Remember Severed Head

Clues play the Rickshaw Stop this Thursday.