Clues - Clues (Constellation)
10 Jul 2009
"roller coaster ride? now there's a cliche to enjoy, except this roller coaster ride is built around your genitals, rolls into your thorax and regurgitates it's clicking, skull-f**king (all one word) tracks straight out of your cranium..."; release - '09
Originating from the Montreal indie scene which spawned the likes of Arcade Fire, The Dears and Wolf Parade, Clues is actually the output of former The Unicorns man Aiden Penner, his previous band's Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone the blueprint and catalyst for the area's burgeoning indie scene. Paired with Arcade Fire's pre-Funeral member Brendan Reed (who was also the main instrument arranger) Clues become much more than the sum of the parts, creating a work that pays homage to The Unicorns' sound, reclining in a blurry chamber of abstract figures and unsettling nuance. Building on the legacy that Penner's former band, this release alleviates some of the blackened smear that (the other Unicorn) Nick Thorburn left on his band Islands self conscious, almost paranoid second album.
Much Like Who Will Cut Our Hair, Clues is indebted to lyrical fancy; oblique references amidst lines like "who here, wants to sleep in the dragon's mouth?" or "approach the throne, throw away your skin," that could be seen to be anything from content-loaded to parody, but really just aid the roller coaster ride the album takes you on. Roller coaster ride? Now there's a cliche to enjoy, except this roller coaster ride is built around your genitals, rolls into your thorax and regurgitates it's clicking, skull-fucking (all one word) tracks straight out of your cranium. If there's album as a journey intentions here - lyrics recalled throughout, melodic repetition and narrative arcs blistering into oblivion - then they're lost beneath the bubbling hocus pocus of faux-mystical lyricism. No matter the incoherent, Penner's voice guides: the churning belly guitar of 'Approach The Throne' differs so much to 'Cave Mouths' heady mix of loping, then shaking, now falling and finally cackling guitar the tracks couldn't seem more dissimilar, but through the baying Penner's thin voice reaches out, lyrical repetition a small part of the larger, more cohesive mood his breathy fantasies deliver.
And if the album's otherworldly whole incorporates an unwieldy mix of all of Frankenstein's monster's disfigured parts, then the relentlessly beating heart is 'You Have My Eyes Now.' Penner's voice reaches from the line on the horizon, across an unsettling landscape that quickly dissolves into battered guitar and the most loaded "woah" you'll hear all year, pure poetry. 'Ledmonton' disregards the pomp of mysticism, and sounds all the clearer for it, Penner disbands the high delivery in favour of a cacophonous wail. It starts classical, and ends up submerged beneath a quickly developing current of urgently punched self destruct button's, a fitting end perhaps? But that's left to 'Let's Get Strongs' quietly longing ivory; Penner more honest, cracked beneath the tumultuous, but revelling in the melancholy, "Is it really meant to be this way?" He sings, you're sure it's not. Clues are indebted to emotion. The dichotomy of their pulsating chord structures, rushing uncontrollably through dense wordplay and hanging menace contradicts perfectly the sparse, elongated silence in the albums quieter subterfuge; the divide between Clues fast and slow means both are more successful, in unison and solidarity. We should all be there with them.