Clearlake with Stereolab at the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne), Saturday (April 10). $20. 416-323-1251, 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Clearlake may be enjoying the lingering effects of the critical buzz on their capital-B Britpop disc Cedars (Domino) during the Sussex crew's current North American jaunt, but back home in the UK few people are even aware they've left. It appears that Clearlake's overt Englishness, which comes through in the singing and songwriting of frontman Jason Pegg - showing flashes of Scott Walker's taste for melodrama and Ray Davies's poignant wit - has struck a chord with anglophiles abroad yet left the shrugging home crowd wondering what all the fuss is about.
Evidently, the Brighton burr isn't quite as exotic to Londoners as it is to music journalists in North Carolina and Wisconsin.
"Yeah, totally," laughs Pegg over a cellphone from Chicago. "We've done very well here in the States with an album that's considered very British-sounding, but in England it's, like, 'So what's the big deal?' I think it's the same sort of exotic thing for American bands in the U.K.
"We don't try to play up the Englishness of what we do. In fact, we've been doing just the opposite lately. It just comes from listening to a lot of music from England. I've been accused of being obsessed with the weather - which is a very British trait, apparently - but it's a real puzzle trying to figure out what it is exactly that makes our music seem so British."
It could have something to do with the pervasive feeling of melancholy that casts everything on Cedars in shades of grey.
While the album, co-produced by the Cocteau Twins' Simon Raymonde, is mostly a quiet exercise in moody introspection, there are a couple of unexpectedly thrashy outbursts during Can't Feel A Thing and Come Into The Darkness that keep things interesting. According to Pegg, there are more noisy bits on the way.
"My biggest fear is our sound getting too easy. When I start seeing comparisons to Coldplay and Travis in the press, it's like, 'Note to self: need more screaming feedback.' We're not going to start throwing things in for shock value. I always want our music to sound beautiful, but I want it to run deep, too.
"We're about three-quarters of the way through writing the new album, and as soon as we get home we'll start recording. I think it's going to be more of a rock record - definitely not as sombre as Cedars. The new material is a lot louder and heavier."
A road tour of the U.S. can sometimes be too much for a group of sensitive Brits to bear, but Clearlake have been revelling in their first cross-continental expedition. Pegg believes the trip has been hugely beneficial beyond enabling them to try out the new tunes on discerning audiences.
"There's something very nice about life on the road - you know, surviving moment-to-moment, far removed from the concerns of the real world. I can see how living this way can be very addictive. I love it." firstname.lastname@example.org