Clair de Lune – Marionettes

Clair de Lune
Marionettes

The latest edition to Deep Elm’s roster, Minnesota’s Claire de Lune is perhaps one of the most intense bands on the label. While the formula of powerful guitar that’s intense yet melodic, intricate percussion, driving bass, and dual vocals is not unique, Claire de Lune’s approach is unique enough to make Marionettes a wonderful post-hardcore album.

In large part, the difference is due to the band’s talent. These songs shift and morph throughout, changing pace, flowing from blindingly intense to moody and melodic quickly. There are no simple power riffs here; instead, these musicians are so talented that every moment of Marionettes feels inspired. And like labelmates Desert City Soundtrack, Claire de Lune integrates piano into almost every song. No, it’s not the most obvious post-hardcore instrument, but it works exceptionally well here.

You can tell a lot from a good album opener, and Clair de Lune open incredibly strong with “Sailor Beware.” Driving guitar, thrilling bass, power drumming, and the ever-present piano mix nicely as the song catapults into intensity. It just builds and builds until a perfect mid-song breakdown. “Ghost of the Hill” is slightly less aggressive, and keyboards replace the piano, while “Passenger View” builds back up over powerful drumming and layered guitars and vocals. Fans of Red Animal War will appreciate the punk-infused energy of the brilliant “Machinegun Lipstick,” definitely my favorite track on the album, as the lead singer belts out “This blood has stained our hands for centuries.” And “Blue Ribbon” reminds me of former Deep Elm band The White Octave. Album closer “Varicose” is a quick blast of high-powered intensity that nicely bookends the album with “Sailor Beware.” The shouted chorus of “Lights out! Lights out!” is a suitable end.

Some of the most unique moments here are the band’s best. The gorgeous intro and outro to “Life on Remote” – with piano and impeccable bass – startle me every time I hit the track. The piano on the short “Twenty Threes” is chilling and moody, and acoustic guitar comes in to add to that tone. “Relapse” starts very slick, more chilled and atmospheric, and I really like this approach, and it’s a nice contrast when the song really builds to its climactic moment of power and intensity.

Claire de Lune combines punk-rock urgency with emo intricacies and hardcore intensity. The formula itself isn’t unique, but the band has incredible talent, and the incorporation of piano and keyboards is a nice touch. This album, in the best tradition of Deep Elm, shows an incredibly talented band putting intensity and energy first and foremost. I’m impressed, and I can only imagine how good Claire de Lune is live.