Over the course of 6 earlier albums, a bunch of singles, a clutch of EP's, and a few compilations, The Clientele have maintained a remarkably consistent run. And that run is going to be extended by the release, on Friday, of the band's latest album. Out on Merge Records here in the USA, Music For The Age Of Miracles is another batch of superb chamber pop from this group, and further proof of why The Clientele remain an understandably-treasured band for so many listeners.
The Clientele -- Alasdair MacLean (guitar and vocals), James Hornsey (bass), and Mark Keen (drums, piano, percussion) -- have perfected a modern take on Sixties styles to such an extent that it's almost as if the group was creating their own genre by refining those styles on each subsequent release. That push-and-pull between Beatles-era influences and Eighties ones is something that a listener can hear in the traces of pre-disco Bee Gees in album opener "The Neighbour", even as lead single "Lunar Days" channels a vibe that one could say was poised closer to the more mannered moments on a Galaxie 500 release. The spry "Everything You Tonight Is Different From Itself" recalls a whole slew of Creation Records bands from a few decades ago, while the stately "The Circus" mines a vein that The Lilac Time sometimes worked while also offering up a relaxed expansion of the usually-precise arrangements that this band is so fond of. Elsewhere, the supple "Everyone You Meet" echoes music made in that era when The Beatles had inspired so many and before that inspiration had turned into something shaggier. The track is elegant and full of the sort of effortless class that MacLean and co. have brought to the creation of indie-pop over so many years. Throughout their career, The Clientele have channeled this sort of thing so easily that one could forgiven for sometimes taking them for granted. Treading a path between a sort of relaxed folk ("Constellations Echo Lanes") and a very refined breed of British pop ("The Age Of Miracles"), The Clientele here share the ends of their artistic spectrum.
And while there aren't any shocks or surprises here, that is precisely why this band has remained so treasured for so long. The Clientele do one or two things so extraordinarily well that one can forgive them for not taking any huge risks this time out. Music For The Age Of Miracles shines in the manner of most Clientele records and long-time fans should be able to embrace this one as easily as, say, Strange Geometry. And, for new(er) fans of The Clientele, Music For The Age Of Miracles offers up as clear a single-disc distillation of this band's strengths as one is likely to ever encounter.
[Photo: Andy Willsher]