Yesterday we brought you fantastic news that venerable London band The Clientele were returning to the fray after an extended absence with a new album ‘I Am Not There Anymore’, slated for release on 28 July via Merge Records. The news is accompanied by the release of a single ‘Blue On Blue’: a classy dreamy pop gem that positively shimmers like a star in the firmament.
Given I am ensconced in Backseat Mafia’s antipodean headquarters, I can’t help but be reminded of the Flying Nun/Dunedin sound perfected by the Chills and The Bats, but other frames of reference such as the C86 era and the fairground pop of XTC also hover in the ether. But ‘Blue On Blue’ provides only a distant nod and a knowing arched eyebrow to these sounds – it stands on its own as a piece of perfect baroque pop that sparkles with a yearning sheen and a brilliant pastoral whirl.
According to vocalist/lyricist/guitarist Alasdair MacLean, the sound is a slight departure from their previous work. As with many creatives, the enforced hibernation of life caused by the pandemic created time and space for reflection and experimentation:
We’d always been interested in music other than guitar music, like for donkey’s years. None of those things had been able to find their way into our sound other than in the most passing way, in the faintest imprint.
The band explored other genres, instruments and sounds and began to experiment with electronics and computers. You can detect this in ‘Blue On Blue’ with its hyperactive added percussive beats and addition of instruments such as a horn fringe that adds luster and light to the track. Of course what remains as a golden thread to The Clientele is the jangling guitars, liquid bass and snapshot drums delivering a tune that is melodic and bittersweet, with its melancholy vocals coasting over a contrasting effervescent platform.
Maclean says of the song’s theme:
‘Blue Over Blue’ is about getting lost in the woods on Hampstead Heath on an autumn day with my two-year-old son on my shoulders – he loved it and wanted to play hide and seek. I knew he was a ticking time bomb as I had no food with me and was trying to find my way back to a path.
There is a sense of wonder and bewilderment distilled in the words – none of these signs leads to where they point – adding a certain sense of naivety and innocence in the face of the unknown. The accompanying video is exquisitely absurdist as the armour-clad band attempts to play their instruments, capturing a sense of childlike bafflement. You could read into this a representation of the parental need for protection and safety which inhibits modern life and creativity. The song wanders like the lost couple into a psychedelic off-shoot break replete with a harpsichord plunk before coming to an anthemic resolution at the end.
‘Blue On Blue’ is out now and available to stream here.
The album ‘I Am Not There Anymore’ is available to pre-order here and through the link below. Maclean says the album is about:
The memory of childhood but at the same time the impossibility of truly remembering childhood… or even knowing who or what you are.
On the basis of the signs put out by ‘Blue On Blue’, it promises to be something very special.
As well as US dates to follow in August (see below), the band will also play a London in-store at Rough Trade (tickets) in support of the record, performing at Rough Trade East on release day, Friday, 28th July.
Alasdair MacLean – vocals, guitars, tapes, beats, bouzouki, Mellotron, organ
James Hornsey – bass, piano
Mark Keen – drums, percussion, piano, celesta
Feature Photograph: Andy Willsher
Daniel Evans – extra drums on ‘Blue Over Blue’
Sarah Field – trumpet
Dave Oxley – horn
Ruth Elder – violin
Non Peters – violin
Stella Page – viola
Sebastian Millett – cello