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The Clientele

The Clientele's predominant mood is one of drifting aimlessness. This is the result of a lot of things. The group's slow-paced melodic pop compositions wander on without paying too much attention to choruses and hooks, each song seeming to meander happily into the next. That's partly due to the fact that all the songs sport a soupy, lo-fi sheen thanks to their pleasantly primitive, gently hissing production. Through the fuzz, singer Alasdair MacLean's laconic voice comes euphoniously, lazily, occasionally sinking to a half-whisper, once in awhile surrendering to a runaway falsetto. His impressionistic lyrics, full of fleeting moments and half-forgotten memories, match the mood. All seems swathed in a sweetly golden melancholy, like sitting indoors on a rainy Saturday morning with an old photo album open on your lap.

The Clientele's dreamy torpor will undoubtedly remind some of Galaxie 500, but their overall mood is a bit less whimsical, a bit more fey. They too owe a debt to the arty avant-garde '70s rock of Television and The Velvet Underground, but they owe an even greater debt to the bouncy melodic pop of the late '60s, recalling everyone from The Beatles to Tommy James and the Shondells to Simon and Garfunkel to The Lovin' Spoonful to The Byrds. Nostalgic though their music is, however, The Clientele unquestionably have a distinctive approach, effortlessly building a pleasant, floating, insulated little world you get lost in right away. It's not a bad place to be.

The London quartet formed halfway through 1997 and has released a steady stream of singles, compilation contributions, and mini-EPs since then. The A Fading Summer EP on March Records collected some of those, and 2001's gorgeous 13-song Suburban Light full-length on Merge collected most of the rest.

Since the release of Suburban Light, The Clientele has stayed busy, touring extensively throughout both the U.S. and Europe. Recording their five-track 2002 Lost Weekend EP (Acuarela), according to the band inspired by the poetics of a hangover, was an arduous process involving considerably re-recording and cutting, but the output is pure magic. There are only three conventional songs here (plus one ambient track and one instrumental piano-based track), but the material is as tenebrously lovely as anything the group has done before.