The Clientele - Alone and Unreal: The Best of the Clientele - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Clientele - Alone and Unreal: The Best of the Clientele

by Rob Taylor Rating:9 Release Date:2015-09-06

I haven’t seen the sales figures, but The Clientele are reportedly more popular in the US than in the UK. I wondered about this, and recalled bands I thought played in the same idiom, and did in fact garner popularity in the UK, like Belle & Sebastian and The Chameleons.

The Clientele are sometimes benignly described as pastoral, a descriptor that could be mistaken for meaning diffuse or even insipid. The Clientele are, in fact, quite dynamic, but dynamic in the sense of being beautiful proponents of the song; a Byrdsian quality of layered harmonies and chiming guitars. For instance, listen to ‘Never Anyone But You’, taken from Bonfires of the Heath, a really gorgeous pop song which recalls the 1960s, but only in the sense of being beholden to the melody, doe-eyed and uncynical. Here, The Clientele show themselves as romantics, teasing emotions that break down even the most hardened indie fan. 

However, back to their popularity in the U.S. While listening to this best of album, Alone and Unreal, a number of references decidedly American came to mind. The exquisite good vibrations of The Jayhawks, the wide eyed innocence of Davy Jones in the vocals (‘I Can’t Seem To Make You Mine’), and the delicate hushed tones of Joey Burns from Calexico (‘On A Summer Trail’). I was also reminded of the sweet alt-country cadences of Jeff Tweedy and Wilco (‘The Queen of Seville’). 

Alone and Unreal takes two tracks from the early singles collection, Suburban Light (‘Reflections After Jane’ and ‘We Could Walk Together’) early low-fi and unapologetically mellow tracks which veer towards the urbane in effect, but unpolished in execution. The deeply recessed and echoey ambience almost seems a contrivance. They are however, sweet pop songs. ‘Missing’ is lifted from The Violet Hour, and The Clientele are beginning to sharpen their hooks. Strange Geometry from 2005 contributes the next three tracks. The songwriting finesse was well in evidence by then, almost deliriously on ‘Since K Got Over Me’ the vocals more confident, more strident and forward in the mix, and the harmonies are flawless. The guitars chimes like R.E.M circa ‘Gardening at Night’. 

By ‘Bookshop Casanova’ on God Save The Clientele, the band were comfortably in their own niche, having long etched a professional pop sound distinctly theirs alone.


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