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Music Review: The Clientele – Minotaur

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The Clientele continue their quiet drive of mining the prettier side of Brit-pop. Their sound looks farther backwards than most, finding inspiration more with groups from the sixties — where flower power and folk music still fused with the greater rock landscape — than with the more effects-laden scenes that came after. They have a far gentler sound, offering beautiful summer gems for slightly mopey hipsters.

Although you can still count their proper albums on one hand, they consistently supplement them with EP-length releases that offer the excuse to experiment with ideas that might not otherwise fit the mood established on a full-length album. Their latest, Minotaur, is somewhere in the middle. Dubbed a “mini album,” that’s actually a rather accurate description. Most of the tracks are destination material with only slight indulgences; it just happens to be kept on the short side for a more traditional album.

The title track starts things off and feels like one of their more polished pop gems. The minimal, arpeggiated guitar accompaniment gets bolstered by strings and a hint of extra excitement from the rhythm section. It still captures the group’s trademark dreaminess, but offers something beyond just “that sound.”

“Jerry” begins with an almost spaghetti-western guitar solo, but quickly shifts back into normal Clientele mode for the bulk of the song. It picks up more rock steam towards the end, though, and offers a good hit of energy to the set. “As the World Rises and Falls” is what the group does best; a light shuffle of a hazy and floating pop track, with music that’s a bit more pretty than the lyrics. “Paul Verlaine” is a bouncy, immediately catchy track where you half-expect to hear some “doot doot” vocals in the background, and offers some upbeat support to “Jerry.”

A couple of shorties begin the second half, with “Strange Town” being one of the more efficient pop songs I’ve ever heard. Although under two minutes in length, it still manages to pack in a wonderful and jaunty melodic line with an assortment of indie-summer accompaniment. “No. 33” is much more of a trifle in comparison, being a simple minor-key piano experiment, although working as a segue to what follows.

Continuing in their sporadic series of spoken poem — or simply recalled dream — tracks, “The Green Man” sticks out as an oddball entry. Unlike “Losing Haringey” from Strange Geometry, “The Green Man” doesn’t really have a musical backdrop, but rather is accented by industrial sound effects that layer the recitation. It feels more like a self-indulgent time-filler than anything else. Picking up the end of the release is “Nothing Here Is What It Seems,” which even if it isn’t one of the stronger tracks — offering comfort of sound over anything too unique — it still gets things back on course and grants a more suitable sense of closure.

Minotaur is probably the most substantive of The Clientele’s non-album offerings, and contains some of their strongest and most immediate material. “Minotaur”, “Paul Verlaine” and “Strange Town” are simply Clientele gold. However, this is also matched with a couple of truly throw-away tracks — admittedly not uncommon with EPs. As long as your quantity expectations are kept in check, you will be more than rewarded with some quality.

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About David R Perry