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Clearlake - Amber

Clearlake - Amber

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE third album from Brighton-based Clearlake could well be their most accomplished so far and looks set to strengthen their cult appeal on both sides of the Atlantic.

Amber has been produced by the band’s lead singer and guitarist, Jason Pegg, along with Steve Osborne (of U2, Happy Mondays, KT Tunstall) and Jim Abbiss (Kasabian, DJ Shadow, David Gray) and recorded by Phill Brown (Talk Talk, Bob Marley, Led Zep, Hendrix, you name it). It’s an album that is happy to explore and sometimes celebrate the eccentricities of Englishness, as well as the everyday problems that surround us all (failed love, frustration, etc).

Yet its allure lies in the way it mixes styles, veering from shoe-gazing melancholy one minute, to ball-busting indie-rock the next, right through to the sort of laidback psychedelia that makes the Dandy Warhols style so adorable (without being quite in the same league).

Pegg describes the record like this: “A friend of ours said that this is our lost weekend record. You’ve split up with someone and decide to go out and have fun but haven’t really dealt with the ghost of the old relationship. I think it’s a record about people at night, the way you feel different after dark. How the mood changes as daylight approaches.

“We’re always looking for those places between worlds. Amber lies somewhere, I dunno, between Neil Young and Neil Armstrong. It is definitely the best record we’ve made and the one I’m most happy with. Cedars got a bit introspective and I’d say Amber is more positive, We wanted to have more fun. It’s been a struggle, but we’re really proud of it.”

Evidence of the love-split theme is rife throughout tracks like You Can’t Have Me, a deliciously brooding effort that is built around a tantalising guitar riff and a stripped down set of vocals. The opening lyric ‘you can’t have me, you can’t keep me for yourself’ is sang with real depth, a warning that comes from the heart. Pegg’s vocals resonate and are augmented by a solitary piano chord, which then gives way to a sly beat. It’s a slow-builder of tremendous worth and easily among the very best that the album has to offer.

Lead single, Good Clean Fun, on the other hand, is the sound of the band having the fun that the title suggests – setting things around cascading guitar loops, an effervescent drum loop and the sort of stoner-style vocals that beg Dandy Warhols comparisons. It’s a lively, rousing effort that seems to have been constructed with fans on both sides of the Atlantic in mind.

Finally Free is the point at which the Neil Young vibe kicks in, an old-school rocker that features a lively central guitar riff and some nice vocal layering that serves to provide a catchy chorus.

And title track Amber begins with the sort of ambient instrumental that suggests the ethereal state that Pegg spoke of earlier before giving into a deeply atmospheric effort that is rife with observation, pensive thought and background strings that lend it an epic, other-worldly vibe. The sense of brooding is palpable.

Such tracks are evidence of the album at its finest and Clearlake at their most ambitious and entertaining. Other efforts, such as the straight-forward head-rush of I Hate It That I Got What I Wanted and the echo-rock of Here To Learn fail to make the same sort of impression and sound like album-fillers. They’re not terrible but simply fail to measure up to the highlights.

This should not put you off checking out Amber, however, for this is a really strong offering that deserves to widen the band’s appeal beyond the cult status they currently enjoy.

Track Listing
1. No Kind Of Life
2. Neon
3. Good Clean Fun
4. Finally Free
5. You Can’t Have Me
6. Amber
7. I Hate It That I Got What I Wanted
8. Here To Learn
9. Far Away
10. Dreamt That You Died
11. Widescreen
12. Its Getting Light Outside