By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
By Harley Oliver Brown
The Clientele make "Monet music." (What, you never saw Clueless?) Cock your ears right, and the band sounds beautiful. Go in for the close-up and they're all runny eyeliner and smudged lip-gloss. Except still beautiful, just gloriously indistinct: breathy sighs where the words should be and dust-mote-through-sun-shaft guitar. And big nimbus-sized halos of reverb ringing every sound, making a mockery of studio engineers from Brighton to Vladivostok.
Naturally they're not gonna sing about a Bush-sponsored guerrilla war or the ooshy-gooshy qualities of real adult sex. In the Clientele's little England, grad students holding hands carry the weight of the ages. Like their spiritual forebearsFelt, Galaxie 500, Sarah Recordsthey come from a world where singing out of tune means purity and puppy dog drum-tumbles are rhythmic effervescence.
The Violet Hour, their first album qua album, represents a progression of sorts from their singles. The lyrical lexicon remains locked down (rain, walking, driving, walking through rain, driving through rain), but the new songs are more, uh, considered than the previous sun-ripened four-track doodles.
The more involved the songs get, the more ethereal they end up, and not always to the good. But indie pop has never managed to add much to the canon of "great songs." At its best indie grabs a moodusually some variation on the poutand runs with it, sometimes for years. When a band does post-collegiate longing as good as the Clientelesmeared clichés so potent they sound instantly familiarI couldn't give a butterfly's ass if they recorded the same damn album for a decade.