January 25, 2006

Clearlake "Amber"

New year, new Clearlake record, it seems. This British threesome’s music keeps getting mellower and slightly more ‘mature’ with each passing record; not that that’s a bad thing, mind you, but it’s something that seems to be done to mixed results. Their last album, Cedars, was an impressive little record, full of both mellow numbers and some pulsating rockers, the clear highlight being “Almost the Same,” a record that definitely deserved to be a radio hit. The rest of the record was a late-in-the-day Britpop record that was easy on the ears.

Amber, unfortunately, doesn’t contain its predecessor’s magic. That’s not to say that the band isn’t trying their hardest, but the album just feels as if the band’s standing in place. Oh, they’ve got a keen pop sensibility, and Jason Pegg is still a good singer, but the record feels…safe. It doesn’t feel particularly groundbreaking or exciting, and it just feels as if the band’s on autopilot. While some bands can get away with releasing records that keep with the status quo, Clearlake isn’t one of them. The reason is twofold: one, their songs can sometimes fall trap to a sameness that can become quite boring, but mainly, it’s because deep down, you know Clearlake can do better.

Even though the band seems to be treading water, that doesn’t mean that the album is devoid of good songs. The band’s fast-paced numbers like “I Hate It That I Got What I Wanted” and “Finally Free” can’t touch “Almost the Same,” but they’re good in their own right. While these songs are great, they lack the snappy production of the past, and at times, they sound like a second-rate Dandy Warhols imitation. Mellower numbers like the title track and “Dreamed That You Died” are a welcome touch, and they highlight the sensitivity and lyrical emotion that made previous Clearlake records so rewarding.

Though Amber isn’t a bad record, they can do better. This is the second Clearlake release that earned the “this isn’t bad, but…” statement, and I’d hate to think that everything after Cedars is merely diminishing returns.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.clearlake.uk.com
Label Website: http://www.dominorecordco.com

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