Influential, Merge Records-signed melancholy pop act from London plays its first PDX show since 2010
SOLD OUT - The Clientele
3939 N. Mississippi Ave.
Portland, OR, 97227
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM
This event is 21 and over
Suburban Light was meant to be a complicated, high-production affair rendered in a major studio. From 1997 until 2000, The Clientele had released a sterling string of 7” singles on several labels—Pointy and Fierce Panda, Elefant and Johnny Kane. These songs were demos, preparations for the smash they knew they’d doubtlessly make. When it finally came time to record that debut, the four post-graduate friends entered expensive studios during off hours. Instead of finding their sound, though, they only found frustration.
“We were just waiting to get in a proper studio and have strings, brass, choirs—Phil Spector-crossed-with-Martin Hannett production,” MacLean remembers. “At the time, every engineer wanted to make every band sound like Radiohead, which just broke everyone’s heart. We couldn’t get a warm sound anywhere we went in those days.”
They went, then, with the demos, relatively primitive but especially intimate recordings they made wherever they lived and whenever they wanted. Perhaps that was all for the best: Though The Clientele would later add more flourishes and finesse to their records, Suburban Light establishes the unwavering, minimal core of the band. MacLean’s marriage of grace and tension on the guitar ripples throughout “Lacewings,” a brilliant reverie of chemicals and romance and young-adult lassitude. Drummer Howard Monk and bassist James Hornsey conduct a minor miracle of text painting during “Joseph Cornell,” capturing MacLean’s lyrics about evaporating happiness with a rhythm section that sits somewhere between rock bustle and blues languidness. Suburban Light is very much the sound of four pals, playing songs written from a place with which they all identify. They were living these scenarios.
“We drank then at this pub called The Queen’s Head. I woke up the next day, completely hung over, and I went out to play football at this field near my house. It was an autumn day,” says MacLean. “The sound of ‘As Night Is Falling’ is exactly how I remember that day, because I wrote it after running around those fields. Suburban Light very much does remind me of the suburban place we did come from. It’s quite poignant.”
Year after year the New York City we know, in constant flux, changes with some parts disappearing altogether. Take the Brooklyn venue where the three-piece EZTV played their first show two years ago – gone. The East Village record store that stocked the band's first tape on consignment – shuttered. As the band watch their compatriots move out of the city to cheaper, more idyllic pastures, it's as if New York itself is telling them: "Drop dead." When lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Ezra Tenenbaum sings, "Facedown on the concrete, While I dream of wider streets" on "States of Confusion," you can hear weariness in his voice, and a touch of wistful "what-if" longing for more room, a little less hassle, a few more trees... maybe even a garage to park the 8-track machine.
But the shining "High Flying Faith" -- the first song written for the album -- is a refutation of urban weariness, it's title perhaps acting as a makeshift motto for the optimism (and stubbornness) that is key to New York bands like EZTV. Inspired by the lyrics of "Broken Heart" by Skip Spence, it's a 12-string-propelled nugget that best shows how EZTV operate: toeing the line between past and present, with a keen ear for left-of-the-dial experimentation that never lets the songs hew too far into pastiche and genre nostalgia. Many of the band's foundational inspirations -- the Feelies' upstart jangle, the upside-down pop architecture of Arthur Russell's power pop band The Necessaries, Shoes' aching harmonies -- are back in play on High in Place, their sophomore album, though new instruments and feels abound throughout. Produced and engineered by the band themselves, a baby grand piano rings and 12-string acoustic guitars shimmer throughout the album, recalling the clear-eyed production techniques of Jeff Lynne.
$16 ADV / $18 DOS
Mostly Standing / Limited Balcony Seats
Thu, December 14
Fri, December 15
Sat, December 16
Sun, December 17
Mon, December 18