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Alone and Unreal: The Best of the Clientele (Deluxe)

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Album Review

Since they began releasing records in the late '90s, the Clientele have been responsible for some of the most haunting, most pristine, and flat-out best indie pop imaginable. After a listen to Alone & Unreal: The Best of the Clientele, the case could easily be made that the group may be one of the best bands of their era period. Rankings and history aside, the collection gathers songs from each of the band's five albums, plus a song from a 2014 single, showing their progression from a spare, three-guys-in-a-bedroom sound to the expansive string- and horn-filled experience they became in the end. Each step along the way has its thoroughly autumnal delights, chief among them Alasdair MacLean's vocal and his unique guitar picking. The way that his playing syncs perfectly with the intuitive drumming of Mark Keen and James Hornsey's melodic bass style is always truly delightful. (The addition in later years of multi-instrumentalist Mel Draisey was another snugly fit piece in the sonic puzzle.) Whether they were slowly strumming through achingly fragile ballads like "Harvest Time" or "Missing," waltzing through beautiful midtempo songs that feel like long walks through leaf-strewn country lanes ("We Could Walk Together," "Never Anymore But You") or, very occasionally, getting the feet moving, as on the propulsive Northern Soul-influenced "Bookshop Casanova," they always struck exactly the right note. It's hard to pick favorite high points of the band's career, though it's hard to deny the intensely emotional one-two punch of "Since K Got Over Me" and "(I Can't Seem To) Make You Mine," from the transitional Strange Geometry album that first saw them working with a producer and expanding their sound with keyboards and strings (which were arranged by the band's secret MVP Louis Philippe). Alone & Unreal: The Best of the Clientele is a well-chosen, emotionally powerful selection of songs that works well as an introduction to any poor soul who may have missed out on the group the first time around, but it also works perfectly as a summation of one of the most enriching musical experiences of the guitar pop era. [The Deluxe Edition of the album comes with a bonus album, The Sound of Young Basingstoke. It was recorded in the mid-'90s when Innes Phillips (later of the Relict) was in the band and writing songs along with MacLean. It provides a nice glimpse of the early incarnation of the band, with their signature sound in place and their songwriting already working at high levels. This "lost" and previously unreleased album adds great value to the collection, and is sure to make the group's fans very happy.]

Customer Reviews


The finest band to come out of Fleet. A truly mesmeric sound that haunts and delights in equal measure. Been listening since I was a teenager over twenty years ago. They still sound fresh and vibrant.


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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Alone and Unreal: The Best of the Clientele (Deluxe), The Clientele
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