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Bonfires On the Heath

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Album Review

The Clientele have always been autumnal and very English, and on their fourth album, Bonfires on the Heath, they may have created the most perfect autumnal English pop record imaginable. From beginning to end there is a crisp breeze that smells strongly of burning leaves and the fading memories of the revelry of the summer just passed, a feeling of melancholy and quiet but also a pastoral peacefulness that is very soothing. It's something the band has always been able to conjure up with just a few notes from Alasdair MacLean's guitar or just a few lines of his richly warm vocals, but here they seem to be at the very peak of their powers as a band. Perhaps it's the full integration of newest member, Mel Draisey, and her lovely backing vocals and multi-instrumental skills, maybe it's the incredibly precise and chamber-pop-perfect arrangements, or maybe it's just that the group has written its most cohesive batch of songs yet. Of course previous albums have had their share of great songs ("I Can't Seem to Make You Mine" from Strange Geometry, and "Bookshop Casanova" from God Save the Clientele), but this time out the balance of uptempo tracks (something they've continued to add to their repertoire with much success) like "I Wonder Who We Are" and "Share the Night," hazy midtempo strollers like "Never Anyone But You," and hushed ballads like the breathtaking title track, work like a magic spell, and the whole album rushes by dreamily like autumn itself. Unlike the season, which inevitable turns to the bitterness of winter, Bonfires on the Heath can be endlessly replayed. The warmth it conveys is immense, and along with the happiness it provides, the album also shows that the Clientele continue to be one of the best pop bands around in the 2000s.


Formed: 1997 in London, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Retrofitted pop band the Clientele had obvious roots in the hazy, autumnal glare of Galaxie 500 and Felt. Just as those bands took their Velvet Underground and Television records to heart without being derivative, the Clientele were able to chalk up an extensive discography riddled with lush melodies of their own without sounding like a tribute band. Think of your favorite '60s pop band and odds are they're in the Clientele's blood. The London-based band formed in mid-1997, consisting of Alasdair...
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Bonfires On the Heath, The Clientele
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