Monday, July 1, 2013
Clearance "Dixie Motel Two-Step" EP on Microluxe Records
For me Pavement and later Malkmus projects with the Jicks have shaped a huge part of thinking about music, playing some of my own and even going for weeks without wanting to listen to anything else. They were some of the first singles I ever bought. You're telling me there's stuff out there that isn't on the CD? There's more songs from the record I haven't heard? I hesitate to ever compare a band to Pavement because it almost does them a disservice. I know I would be suspect if the first thing in a mention of this single from Clearance was Pavement. That being said, Clearance, a two piece from Chicago is a dead on homage, a perfect construction in the spirit of Stephen Malkmus. It's awesome and eerie, and almost a problem. I'm still having trouble every time I hear this if I can be OK with tracks that sound so exactly like Pavement...is that such sacred territory they're going to alienate a lot of people?
A-Side "Walking Papers" starts out with a raw jangle sound, a thin, rehearsal space feeling, dubbed together guitars that just miss hitting the tiny change in a great way. It's the sound of sincerity, being important enough to get to this place but never losing sight that after all this is humans playing an imperfect document that should be trying to capture a feeling, not the perfect time change. It's gushing (You are - ed) with optimism and close overdubbed vocals that only come in after you've absorbed the entire song laid out measure by measure, verse and chorus. Thick bent chords in a detuned jangle with poppy little changes. Then Mike's vocal starts, and it's not just that he's delivering the in the same range as Malkmus, but he's got a similar vocal phrasing in speeding the end of a verse, deliberately avoiding the dead on match with that guitar melody. I start thinking about what makes Pavement and then Clearance so great. It's that effortless pop, the laid back hazy not psych feel. It's clear, not reaching for anything, no grasping for the latest sound. It's putting the song out there in a structure that they love, it's one of those impossibly personal approaches that touches on something universal. If Dr. Moreau played Wowee Zowee to a couple of kids their entire life.
"You're not the target" has a laid back country strum and Mike is back, hell he's got the same word play even. An english lit major for sure, is it about him letting you how smart he is? No. It's a loose stream of consciousness that's in and out of focus with slacker humor. A bit of a crooked smile in every line.
Did I mention this is just two guys? Mike on guitar and vocals and Arthur on drums? If they can accomplish a single like this with the two of them I'm starting to get really excited where this could go. It wasn't just a fluke, or tribute to their favorite band, nope this is going to continue like this.
"Selling the plot/Holding Pattern" features a bigger jangle and Mike's vocal has a little chorus or some effect sticking more to the melody this time. It's distancing itself from the first side in it's gleaming pop bottom line is he's got a great vocal even when it's a little bit more serious and in that pop song mentality. He punches in a great solo of slightly gritty guitar while the sound on this one goes from classic Pavement to more like Teenage Bandwagon or the Posies flowery pop. When this devolves to the Holding Pattern section it goes grungy and dirty electric rises in, for a long intro in a waltzy back and forth crunch, an instrumental. Devolves and then falls apart in the end, my favorite part. "She's gonna show you" has a perfect electric jangle and the close mic'd goof is back. This is serious, but the subtle ways the lyric is delivered elevate this to that great place. It's earnest even, but you can hear the other levels going on than the standard lovesong. A country indie sound that's always been there in the back of the bar and has been every night for a thousand years.
Pick this up direct from the band and their own Microluxe Records if you have or ever liked Pavement. Black or Blue vinyl.