Clann Zú with Gregg McPherson at C'est What (19 Church), Friday (July 30). $10. 416-867-9499.
I like to feel sorry for myself. I admit it. I don't mean that I'm depressive or that I loaf around brooding how the world is spiralling ever closer to oblivion. (It is.) I'm certainly not stuck in some body-dysmorphic ghetto of the mind, wishing I had bigger pecs. I just like to wallow in melancholy music.
When I mention this to Benjamin Andrews, the guitarist of Australian/ Irish band Clann Zú, he chuckles.
"Yeah, I guess our music would have to appeal to that sort of sensibility."
As a lover of pop, my tastes have never strayed so far from miserable gestures that there wasn't at least one rainy-day classic in heavy rotation, and I've never been able to understand music fans who profess no affinity for the greyer notes of the rock canon. Editors and peers have been known to cap debates with some variation on "you like all that sad-bastard music" - a cheap out, in my view.
To me, the attitude that the music of the melancholy masters (the Smiths, the Cure, Bowery Electric, My Bloody Valentine and so on) is too narrow and thus lacklustre has always smacked of ignorance. (Uh, Picasso's blue period, anyone?)
Clann Zú's latest recorded effort and second full-length, Black Coats And Bandages (G7 Welcoming Committee), puts the lie to the notion that all grey matter is inherently flat, as the band coaxes a marvellous palette of colours from the reputedly narrow spectrum.
"The thing is," Andrews says, trailing off, "we do get referred to frequently as 'miserable rock.' It's probably just the easiest way for people to categorize what we sound like. But I still find it funny. As a person, I'm pretty chirpy. It's so much fun playing music that it's a little hard to think of it in such exclusive terms."
Black Coats And Bandages isn't so easy to dismiss. I almost never throw an album to the top of the ranks (last time: the Delgados' Great Eastern, an album I liken to Revolver), but Clann Zú's sophomore LP has me close. All the points are covered: every track is a pleasant surprise, the lyrics are there in spades, and the music is virtuosically subtle, overwhelming and achingly raw.
Clann Zú somehow embody a mishmash of recognizable elements without becoming a pale reflection of those influences. Both vocally and musically, the Mars Volta rears its head. But before you can get caught up in Volta-style prog insanity, they swerve into GY!BE, Jeff Buckley, the Tindersticks, Gavin Friday, Chris Martin and the ballady moments of Tool. The confluence of these sounds is utterly new - and Clann Zú own it.
Singer Declan de Barra gets the ultimate credit for that tightrope walk. His songwriting teeters between mantra and storytelling as effortlessly as he pulls off limitless nuances in his vocal delivery. His gifts culminate in the album's centrepiece track, One Bedroom Apartment, the most perfectly brittle song of love lost since the Weakerthans' Left And Leaving or the Tindersticks' Her.
When Andrews puts de Barra on the phone, talk quickly turns to the latter's haunting lament.
"It's really very simple," de Barra says in his Irish lilt. "I had a terribly hurtful experience of a relationship ending. One Bedroom Apartment captures the intensity of that feeling, of poisoned tenderness."
Apropos of the chorus - a heartbreaking refrain of "I will never love again" - has our man gotten over the feeling?
"Well, there is something cathartic in making a song," he answers. "You can't allow something like that to define you. But at the same time, it's fair to say that you'll never be so free or open in love as you were before you experienced its failure."