the clientele bonfires on the heath
  • TUESDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2009

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Bonfires on the Heath is the newest record from the British kings of lush psyche pop, The Clientele, and while there is a definite sense of sophistication on the band's sixth studio album, its still just what you'd expect. Their usual cast of eerie shadows, lonely ghosts, and broken time floating from the breathy lungs of front man Alasdair MacLean are all here, but this time we're off to a bonfire.

The title track "Bonfires on the Heath" is one of the album's highlights with its autumnal musings, silken piano, and billowing harmonies drifting through the gauzy airwaves. The same goes for "Harvest Time" which maintains the same feeling of that wandering in the twilight as the ephemeral observer, "everything here has a place and time/ we're only passing through". "Never Anyone But You" churns with Procal Harum-esque organ and turns from inhabiting the specter to being the haunted "there's a phantom in the gaps between my bones". Then there are songs like "I Know I'll See Your Face" with its wilting brass sections and Spanish guitar harkens back to dreamy magic of Love's Forever Changes. These tracks are truly beautiful moments on the album.

Of course I can't talk about The Clientele without saying something like this: Bonfires on the Heath is clearly influenced by The Zombies, Nick Drake, and The Beatles. Songs like "Graven Wood" sounds like if Nick Drake wrote a song for Odessey and Oracle, and George Harrison threw in some backing instrumentals.

"I Wonder Who We Are" and "Share the Night" are two of the bands more upbeat attempts, and while that added energy is definitely a welcomed surprise, doesn't feel completely comfortable within the rest of the album's mid tempo dreamscape. On the slower tracks "Tonight" and "Jennifer and Julia", the band's sometimes overly smooth production lends to a too easy to swallow texture that just doesn't hold up.

Bottom line if you're a fan of The Clientele, Bonfires on the Heath won't disappoint, they have continued to do what they've been doing since the late nineties, and for fans that's a good thing. Bonfires on the Health is available now on Merge records. - amelia trask

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