Recently, major indie-rock players have been singing the praises of the Clientele, a London-based outfit stuck in the mellow, marijuana-heady fog of the ’60s. It’s not often that a band’s collective sound – multi-layered strings and acoustic guitar, airy vocals, random chimes and ringing bells – puts them under suspicion of owning numerous copies of Forever Changes by iconic psych-group Love. Strange Geometry is not some remastered LP from 40 years ago, although, at times, it may feel that way.
Though Merge label-mate Britt Daniel has openly professed his love for this band (Spoon chose the them to open on their tour this year), truth be told, they’re kind of boring. Despite crystalline folk melodies and meticulously honed instrumentals, the majority of Strange Geometry comes off as a poor man’s version of similar bands’ work. Considering technicality and musical ability, the group is running on all eight cylinders; it’s obvious the members make up for anything they lack talent-wise with hours in the production studio. But, ultimately, in looking toward their predecessors, The Clientele draw too much from their influences and fail to establish their own identity.
Strange Geometry ultimately founders in the past, never quite become more than a plain imitation. A lot of kids that listen to so-called “indie music” will probably snatch up this album because The Clientele fit into the mold of indie-cool. It’s difficult to picture an especially stimulating Clientele show – maybe lead singer Alasdair Maclean stage-diving into the lethargic crowd after an over-the-top cover of folk standard “Scarborough Fair” would liven things up. Not every band needs to whip hipster kids into a frenzy, but it’s a bad sign when imagining a raucous Clientele show involves parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Strange Geometry does have its stellar moments, however brief they might be. The Clientele have a way of ensnaring song introductions, even if they eventually lose the listener’s attention by the two-minute mark. “Since K Got Over Me” is a gem of an opening with an operatic vocal sample – ethereal and open – until distortion and fuzz blends it into the rest of the song.
Another standout is the strangely compelling spoken-word piece “Losing Haringey,” a tale mixing the narrator’s shitty day with photograph flashbacks and familial revelations. Though it’s hard to make sense of the lyrics with the musical structure, the song is a welcome departure from the already-been-there feel of Strange Geometry. More moments like “Losing Haringey” would raise the voltage of the album, but as it stands, throwing on an old copy of Forever Changes should suffice.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars