Is nostalgia merely a trick of the light? The Clientele come wrapped inside a permanent warm haze, as if their songs were slowly leaking out of a transistor radio first switched on in 1967, sitting on a sideboard beneath an old lamp. Gas heating, yellowing newspapers and duffel coats. Light travels slowly here, and so does sound, with every song a gentle, cantering tempo.
You either enjoy The Clientele as the great lost sixties band that never was, shadowing The Beatles but occasionally skipping forward to steal cheekily from The Go Betweens (‘The Queen of Seville’), or their heartfelt homage leaves you cold. But it’s the heartfelt that makes the difference – there’s no hint of sly irony here. Alasdair MacLean is a consummate, understated songwriter and he sings like David Bowie’s second cousin. Tunes like ‘Isn’t Life Strange?’ twirl light-footedly, string section and all.
There are only hints of the Nashville recording sessions that birthed this album; dabs of pedal steel guitar – particularly on ‘These Days Nothing But Sunshine’ – that add a Byrds-ish streak to this most English of bands. And perhaps it’s the Englishness which keeps emotion here relatively muted, melancholy and happiness both under due check. As MacLean sings on closer ‘Dreams of Leaving’, ‘Don’t be afraid of dreams of leaving/They are only dreams’.