Articles tagged with Clues

Clues @ the Biltmore Cabaret, 5/30/09

Clues and Apollo Ghosts are responsible for two of my favourite records of 2009, so last night’s show at the Biltmore seemed like the perfect pairing. Unfortunately, however, poor promotion meant that the venue was only half full, a problem likely accentuated by the early start time (there was another show starting at 11).

Apollo Ghosts took the stage at 8:45, immediately kicking into high gear with “Little Yokohama.” The band’s energy was relentless, especially singer/guitarist Adrian Teacher, who thrashed around the stage and made Iggy Pop crazy-eyes at the audience; within the first two minutes he had already climbed onto the risers at the side of the stage to perform a guitar solo, crouching slightly so as not to bang his head on the low ceiling. In keeping with Teacher’s manic intensity, the set emphasized the band’s punk influence, eschewing quirky ballads in favour of Ramones-inspired stompers like “Land of the Morning Calm” and “Bad Apple.” The trio scarcely paused between songs, and this blistering pace meant that Apollo Ghosts were able to play almost half of Hastings Sunrise, as well as several cuts from their brand new EP Forgotten Triangle. Of the new songs, the standout was the set-closing “Palm of my Hand,” during which Teacher led the audience in a Congalaise Flea Dance, as well as performing a guitar solo while crowd surfing.

After the party atmosphere established by Apollo Ghosts, Clues’ brooding art rock was an anticlimax. The performance began with the creeped out drone of “Elope,” featuring frontman Alden Penner’s half-whispered vocals and bandmate Lisa Gamble on musical saw. The rest of the set emphasized Clues’ abrasive tendencies, with squalling feedback and thundering dual percussion; “Haarp” was an explosion of noisy crescendos and jagged guitar riffing, and even the bouncy “Perfect Fit” was overdriven and harsh.

The five members switched instruments on nearly every song, all joining in for shouted group refrains on “Ledmonton” and “Approach the Throne.” It was an impressive show, but the group’s stage presence was haughty and withdrawn; audience interaction was kept to a bare minimum, and Penner & co. seemed eager to leave the stage, wrapping up almost half an hour before the 11pm curfew. Perhaps it wouldn’t have seemed so off-putting if not for the contrast with the energy-filled Apollo Ghosts.
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Collected works

Today I’m preparing for an interview with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, which I’m writing for next month’s BeatRoute. In the meantime, here’s a brief roundup of some recently published works:

I interviewed Apollo Ghosts for BeatRoute. I had a chance to ask them about their (awesome) debut LP, Hastings Sunrise, as well as their lounge rock roots and self-described “musical ADD.” Read the article here.

For this month’s Discorder, I reviewed the RedsEarly Nothing (here) and Clues‘ self-titled album (here). Clues sound a lot like the Unicorns, which makes sense since the group is fronted by Alden Penner. I also blogged about Clues last month.

And here’s something new for the day: the Streets released a new music video called “He’s Right Behind You, He’s Got Swine Flu.” Pandemic humour is always hilarious, especially when it involves zombies and excessive slapstick gore. It’s not exactly Beethoven, but you’ve got to admire the quick turnaround on this one.

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Alden Penner, in the garage, with a guitar

Five years ago, I would have gotten really excited about the news of a new album from an ex-Unicorns member. But since that time, Nick Thorburn has released a string of projects ranging from decent to mediocre to downright awful, meaning that I feel some trepidation about any new material from the once-legendary collective.

I needn’t have worried, since the self-titled album by Clues, the new project by Alden Penner (Thorburn’s one-time songwriting partner) is the best post-Unicorns release yet. Not coincidentally, it’s also the project that sounds most like Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?, with no-nonsence production, and Penner’s unsettling, whispered vocals. The songs toe the line between creepy and ridiculous, with morbid warnings about death and a “dragon’s mouth.” The instrumental arrangements are equally twisted, as the album is full of squealing feedback, warped guitar riffs, and childish falsetto humming.

But Penner can’t receive full credit for the success of Clues, since he is supported by four other musicians, including Brendan Reed, a pre-Funeral member of Arcade Fire. Penner’s bandmates prevent Clues from sounding like a Unicorns rehash, with eclectic arrangements that range from white-washes of ambient sound (“In the Dream”) to snarling punk (“Approach the Throne”). “You Have My Eyes Now” begins as an aimless dreamscape of feedback and reverb-soaked guitar, but halfway through it suddenly explodes into a theatrical, arena-sized waltz. The band also knows when to scale things back—the closing track, “Let’s Get Strong,” is a piano-and-voice ballad that’s so sweet and gentle, it could almost be Coldplay.

mp3: “Perfect Fit”
mp3: “Remember Severed Head”

Clues doesn’t quite reach Unicorns-worthy levels of brilliance, but it’s a more cohesive and satisfying listen than any-other post Unicorns project. It’s due out on May 19 via Constellation.
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