“Every band wants to sound like themselves, ultimately.
That’s a cliché of bands being interviewed. They
kind-of say, ‘Oh, don’t pigeonhole us, we sound like
us’ when a lot of them do sound like other bands,”
Jason Pegg observed. The frontman for British psych-rockers
Clearlake, Pegg sings and speaks with such a thick English accent
that his band gets called “really British” in their
home country. “Someone called us a cross between Ben Folds
Five and Coldplay the other day, which is really insulting to us. I
don’t mind them doing their thing, but it’s just so
middle of the road for me.”

Music Reviews
We would eat Death Cab for Cutie Alive. (Courtesy of Domino Records)

Pegg has a right to be angry — his band’s latest
album, Cedars, is a monument of translucent guitars,
rollicking snare hits, and arcing, dramatic melodies. The sound is
very British — Pegg’s vocals have more than a hint of
Morrisey in them — but Clearlake has very little in common
with most UK acts that hit American shores. In particular,
Pegg’s lyrics are severe, beautifully uneven sketches of his
psyche. Pegg, who sings in a commanding baritone, shares little
with the lilting, detached presence of singers like Thom Yorke or
Chris Martin.

“I never really intended to write these songs that were so
literal,” Pegg explained, “but I enjoy words, and I end
up singing in a style that sometimes I feel I over-enunciate
… at the expense of giving information to people and saying
how it is to be alive in the world.” Songs like “The
Mind is Evil” and “I’d Like to Hurt You”
seem to peer a little too close into Pegg’s subconscious, but
he insisted there is a purpose. “There is an amount of
artistic license. When you write a song, it’s about zooming
in and focusing on one thing. ‘The Mind Is Evil’ is
just about becoming conscious of the chattering part of you that
gives you a hard time.”

Cedars isn’t all dark, however. Filled with stately
ballads and tumbling power chords, the song cycle reflects a wide
range of emotions and sensations. “We’re not
particularly heavy psychedelic drug users. It just comes from the
idea of a band going to different places and hopefully being as
cinematic as possible.”

Putting together a coherent album is a demanding task, and
Cedars isn’t without its flaws. There are moments that
feel slow, overly aggressive or overly sentimental. Pegg, however,
would rather move forward than revisit past mistakes. “I knew
the stuff that was wrong with it the moment we ran out of time and
submitted it,” Pegg lamented. But he added, “I
wouldn’t really change it, because it exists as what it is,
and I’m much happier to move on. Whenever people talk about
remixing stuff it just makes my blood run cold. I just think,
‘Oh, fuck off, just move on and make another record.’

So Cedars isn’t perfect. It is, however, a
captivating, draining listen, one in which Pegg questions the
emotional stability of both himself and the listener. But is it
real? Pegg insists that there are at least shreds of truth in all
of Cedar’s songs. Communication — be it literal
or fabricated — is the ultimate goal. “Sometimes when I
don’t like other people’s music I don’t believe
what they’re saying,” Pegg said. “At the same
time, there are people who make enormous jumps of artistic license,
but they’re very skilled at pulling it off. I want to
communicate to people. And I want other musicians to communicate to
me. I want them to say ‘Isn’t the world odd, or
isn’t the world beautiful, or isn’t the world
sad?’ I want it to be for a point, really.”

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