Music Reviews

Clearlake Cedars

(Domino) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

This is the second album from the Brighton quartet, following on from their debut which picked up a fair amount of praise from various people who matter in these things.

Personally, I must have been hiding under the bedcovers as usual at the time because the name Clearlake meant nothing. Of course, this could work out for the best as the temptation to use the old journalistic trick of 'building them up, knock them down' could so easily have come to hand. As it turns out, I'm looking at Cedars from a fresh perspective. And what a nice one to take. Though the band themselves look like a bunch of youngsters as the 'Lost Children' stand at a funfair, the music itself is anything but juvenile. The chugging opener Almost The Same is upbeat compared to what awaits further down the track, such as The Mind Is Evil and I'd Like To Hurt You. Smiths comparisons aren't hard to come by when lines like "When I'm angry or bitter or bitter, it's never my fault... it's the mind that is evil" and "I wouldn't hurt a fly/But I'd really like to punish you". And though singer Jason Pegg occasionally wanders dangerously close to a Martin Rossiter-esque warble, there's more then a little more to Clearlake then lazy Smiths analogies. For one, there's a peculiarly 'English' sense in the songwriting, namely in Wonder If The Snow Will Settle which muses on that very English pastime of going on about the weather. Also, Clearlake reward repeated listening: though one run through of the album may reveal several favourites, three or four listens later shows there's a little more. Mainly their skill for switching between piano/string melancholy to pure noise pop with consummate ease.

Minor criticisms centre around the production on one or two tracks, which makes for the sound being a tad too murky in places but all can be forgiven for the closing coupling of Treat Yourself With Kindness and Trees In The City. The latter will make for familiar listening to anyone on visiting London while the former should provide an instant anthem to all the self-loathing folk out there.

An album that rewards patience and attention, a band full of musicians not afraid to experiment without falling into traps of pretentiousness - guess this means it's a thumbs up then?