Thursday 11 June 2020

Clavicule - Garage is Dead (2020)

Country: France
Style: Psychedelic Garage Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 12 Jun 2020
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | YouTube

Garage is dead, say Clavicule, releasing what is really a psychedelic garage rock album. The results tell me that garage is far from dead and nobody has even nailed it to the perch. It's clearly alive and well in Rennes, up there in the northwest of France, where Clavicule have mixed it with an intriguing array of sounds. There's Hawkwind in here but Danzig too and Dick Dale and, quite frankly, I never expected to write those names in the same sentence.

This looks like their debut album, though it features the three tracks made previously available on a self-titled EP last year, including the opener, a sensitive little ditty entitled Asshole. This starts out with some surf rock in the guitar but restrained surf against a lofi garage rock backdrop. As it hits full stride and the vocals come in, they're punky in the vein of Glenn Danzig. That's an odd mix but it works really well and it hooked me.

There's no Danzig in the second song, Special Trip, because there's a layer on top of the vocals that gives it a spacy effect. With the vibe generated a hallucinogenic one and the beat an emphatic one, it's not difficult to hear some old school Hawkwind in the song and hey, that works really well too. It shows some neat versatility in the band, even though the two songs aren't as far away from each other sonically as I may have suggested.

Today feels more like garage pop, just as emphatic and just as raw but with a slower Beatles vibe in the construction. There's indie rock in here too, a genre I don't know well enough to highlight comparisons to, but that's where garage rock usually fits so it shouldn't be too surprising. The rhythm is an emphatic old school dance rhythm and the middle eastern sounds in the solos help it to sound almost flamenco.

If that's a wide set of influences, it's a tasty one and Clavicule mix them up over the rest of the album. My Time might start out like an Adam Ant demo but, when it speeds up, it does so with a wild garage flamenco transition. I live for moments like that one. CAB has a flamenco rhythm too, but goes deep into the surf sound three minutes in, which becomes neatly intense, and that sound gets even more delightful when the riffs shift over to keyboards. I'm a big fan of the bass too when the song breaks down towards the end.

Garage bands don't tend to play long songs, but there are two here, with CAB being the first. At 7:19, it's double the average length of the rest, but it never outstays its welcome because it's constructed in phases. Strangely, if CAB is one of my highlights here, my least favourite song is the other long song on offer, Jericho, which closes out the album with an uncharacteristic patience for 6:25. It's the only piece of music here that doesn't take me anywhere, except during its ethnic sections.

I know next to nothing about the band, though Facebook tells me that they're a four piece, with two guitars. Marius plays one and also takes care of the vocals, while Kamil plays the other. Ian handles an occasionally funky bass and Alexis brings an often punky vibe to the drums, or more appropriately in French, the batterie. I have no idea who's responsible for the castanets in the second half of Vertigo, when everything goes garage flamenco again.

While my favourite songs, like My Time and CAB, can be found at the heart of the album, moments like the beginning and end of Vertigo are also highlights and there are plenty more of those. The Race has a particularly epic ending, while The Monkey starts out like Mark Knopfler has stepped in on guitar. I'd given up by that point on any expectation that Clavicule wouldn't just keep on surprising me. I don't think their styles work as well on a ballad, but I won't complain, especially given that The Monkey goes suitably nuts to close.

I really dug this, because it sounds both accessible and highly inventive, a mixture of styles I hadn't heard before that suddenly sound natural together and ought to be mixed more often. Now I really want to hear Clavicule live, maybe alongside a band like The Villainz. That would make for a particularly wild night, hopefully in a tiny but utterly packed club, especially if they join forces at the end of the evening to jam.

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