If you’ve ever heard a Clientele album before, you’ve more or less heard this one. They still sound an awful lot like The Left Banke or The Zombies or Love or any other trippy, baroque-pop act from the ‘60s (if Vietnam hadn’t happened, would every band sound like this?). But, to their credit, The Clientele never really sound retro, because there’s a slickness to their sound that you’d never hear in the pre-digital era. God Save The Clientele was produced by Mark Nevers, of Merge label-mates Lambchop. Lambchop makes super-pretty elevator music, and The Clientele have taken that mellow cue to heart: every guitar strum and pluck, keyboard stroke, or violin’s whine is as clear as a translucent bell. It’s the kind of record that stereo salesmen play when they’re trying to convince you to spend 1600 bucks on a speaker the size of a lunchbox. There’s nothing to object to and much to admire on God Save The Clientele, but there’s also little to celebrate. “Isn’t Life Strange” ganks the melody from Pachelbel’s canon, and as nice as the finished product is, if I wanted to hear Pachelbel’s canon again, I’d go to any middle school piano recital. Elsewhere the band reminds me a little of George Harrison’s solo work (“From Brighton Beach To Santa Monica,” the album’s closer “Dreams Of Leaving”), which some readers will probably take as the highest of praise, though that’s not really my intention. Other than the comparatively grungy “The Garden At Night,” which works up a bit of a go-go dancer vibe, the band’s music never rises above a whisper. And while I don’t have a problem with one-note acts, particularly if they’re Andrew WK or The Ramones (or, for that matter, The Left Banke), if you’ve been playing the same note for three full lengths and a couple of extended plays and you still haven’t written your “Walk Away Renee,” it could be time to pick up another note. But maybe I just need to buy some better speakers.
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