Clues – Clues

Clues - Clues

Clues - Clues

When The Unicorns broke up, the group’s fate was determined for them as one of those bands that many would reflect on with regret and longing. Longing that they never broke up because Nick Thorburn and Alden Penner’s debut is highly regarded as one of the first imperative albums to jump-start the Canadian indie rock scene. Since then, Thorburn has gone on to front Islands and Penner basked in obscurity.

Enter Arcade Fire’s ex-drummer, Brendan Reed, who left the band right before they made it big. And now, Penner and Reed have joined forces to form Clues. As two musicians who may have gotten slighted, their self-titled album is an accomplished and impressive debut.

Seeing as how Penner does most of the singing, Clues recalls The Unicorns debut more than it does any of Arcade Fire’s anthemic rock. “Cave Mouth” does just about everything you’d expect from these two musicians: Penner’s yelps and menacing singing is supported by an even more diabolical guitar and Reed’s booming drums and mallet-led melody. This is spunky, animated, jangly-layered music that is heavy on the hooks and melodies and light on the depth. But with just enough value to evenly balance the dazzle, it ends up being a commendable listen.

Everything begins with the looseness and scatter of “Haarp,” a song that mysteriously and rowdily starts it off. Progressively, shining guitars arrive, drums levitate in terms of volume and attitude and before you know it, the tempo’s increased by forty notches and we’re off to the races. By then, and from here on out, you’re in for a colorful and dramatic battle of the best kind: one that will leave you battered, shattered and begging for more.

The acoustic guitar on “Elope,” along with refined vocals provided by Penner, all add up to be the album’s longest song. Sandwiched in between two of the album’s deeper hitting cuts, it escapes into a warm cove from the banging uproar that is the rest of the album. It’s unquestionably a shift from the “oh-oh-ohs” that are handed off to the guitar on “Remember Severed Head” and a cryptic send-off as Penner eerily asks “Who here, wants to sleep in the dragon’s mouth? Who here, wants to feeeel?”

“You Have My Eyes Now” trances with an array of atmospherics that slowly but surely reach a grandiloquent destination. And that’s harshly juxtaposed by “Ledmonton”‘s mounting pressure of horns and synths that ascend into a vocal rupture of emotion. But even at their most flamboyant, Clues know that the trick is in their riffs and it comes full circle on “Perfect Fit,” with a looming piano and Penner’s singing, “I have seen the most incredible light, in your eyes…so cast away” before the others’ voices commence into a maturation of ominous alarms.

There’s a lot going on here and it all sounds fantastically arranged. Clues is best digested in a full setting because the songs all gel into each other, flowing and streaming into and around each other. And even with all of the pressure, build up and tension that desperately seeks a release or in this case, a resolution, Penner and Reed patiently wait. Its awesome music for sure, hopefully it’s a little bit more reliable than a unicorn is to reappear.

“Perfect Fit” by Clues

“Remember Severed Head” by Clues

Constellation Records