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When I was in my senior year of High School in 1995, I attended an open campus night school. This school was a bit different from your average public school; attendance was not mandatory, on-campus smoking was permitted, and (most importantly) there were half-hour breaks between classes that could be spent in any way. For the better part of a year, my between-class periods were spent driving up the street to get a cup of coffee and then sitting in my car in the parking lot listening to music. At this particular time in my life, my favorite (and most frequently listened-to) albums were Disintegration by The Cure and Kill Uncle by Morrissey. At that time the band that I would have formed would have sounded exactly like Clearlake’s Cedars album.

When I say this, I mean no insult to Clearlake’s relevance in the current music world, I simply mean that this CD could very well serve as a soundtrack to the mentality I had in 1995 when all I listened to was Morrissey and The Cure. In fact, even comparing them to two artists that I hold in such high esteem is indeed a great compliment.

This album was passed to me by a musical compatriot a few days ago, and I just can’t stop listening to parts of it. I think what strikes me is that it really resembles how I think the Brit-rock sound might have evolved over the past decade had Oasis not come along. Singer/guitarist Jason Pegg definitely sounds more like a Morrissey or a Jarvis Cocker than a Gallagher brother. Additionally, the rhythm section and guitar seem to have been greatly influenced by The Cure and Siouxsie & the Banshees. There is virtually no hint of the Coldplay syndrome that is plaguing current British rock music.

The disc opens with Almost the Same, a track that chugs along at a good pace instrumentally, with very smooth and lush vocal melodies on top. The guitar style is along the lines of recent tracks by Longwave, yet the production very much reminds me of early My Blood Valentine records. It’s truly a great upbeat track that will certainly get stuck in your head. The album makes a shift in mood for the second track The Mind is Evil. This downbeat number combines the vocal style of Kill Uncle-era Morrissey with the piano and lush orchestration of recent Delgados records.

I think the first two tracks on this record are all you need to hear to make your judgment of whether you love this disc or hate it; these tracks represent the best of the two different styles this band seems to favor. The rest of the disc provides more great orchestration and songwriting, with I’d Like to Hurt You being the primary stand-out track of the later half. It appears that most of the other tracks are, while quite good, just a few steps above filler. They aren’t bottom-of-the-barrel fodder, but they just don’t hold up to the 3 particular tracks that I mentioned above.

Lyrically, nothing on the album really stands out. Not that the lyrics are bad, but they seem to be hinting at the potential of the band rather than the current state. Everyone seems to be quite competent on their instruments, and the songwriting shows definite promise. I see Clearlake as a band on the rise, having put out a great sophomore effort. Here’s hoping they continue to improve, for future records could be truly fantastic.

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