God Save the Clientele-The Clientele

(Merge)

| May 10, 2007
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"All the dreams you dream, I hope they're all of me," Alasdair Maclean sings sweetly on "Here Comes the Phantom," the opening track on the Clientele's third album, God Save the Clientele. This line kicks off a musical and lyrical obsession with dream life that runs throughout this sleepily sophisticated record. The word itself shows up in several track titles, and most songs mention it either explicitly ("it's autumn in my dreams") or implicitly (the would-be lothario's dreams of sexual conquest in "Bookstore Casanova"). Tying the album together thematically, this noticeable repetition evokes an interior world where the typical romantic emotions — longing, fulfillment, happiness, dread, sorrow — can be intense and overwhelming, unmolested by everyday concerns, even if the band slyly underplays them in the songs.

Similarly, the Clientele's music dreams of a pop era long past. Drawing on such influences as Nick Drake, the Beatles, the Brill Building, and even the Monkees, the 14 songs on God Save are drenched in '60s stylings, from the melodramatic strings on the closing "Dreams of Leaving" to the swinging guitar strums on "Bookstore Casanova" to the rolling piano line of the instrumental "Dance of the Hours." The lovely "Isn't Life Strange" is full of echoing backing vocals that reinforce the bittersweet melody, and on "I Hope I Know You," Maclean breaks into a crescendo of la-da-da-da's that sound off-the-cuff until he repeats them almost exactly a few measures later. That passage, like every other singsongy interlude, is just as practiced as any other melody on the album: For the Clientele, a few la-la-la's and ba-ba-ba's carry as much meaning as an entire lyric sheet.

To its credit, the band isn't concerned with reviving any '60s ideas, which is fortunate considering there are scores of likeminded indie artists aiming to do just that. Instead, this warmly dated aesthetic proves to be the most effective and effusive means of expressing Maclean's particular heartache, and God Save the Clientele gives the Clientele a comfy pillow and a rainy day for drifting off to dream. — Stephen Deusner

Grade: A-

The Clientele plays the Hi-Tone Café Monday, May 14th, with Beach House and The Third Man. Doors open at 9 p.m. Cover is $8.

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