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Clues Kick Off Tour, Release Debut LP at the Ukrainian Federation, May 16

Posted by Greg / May 17, 2009

20090516-CluesPhoto.jpgFew music venues absorb their surroundings as nicely as The Ukrainian Federation. Like the rest of Outremont, its elegance puts it a world apart from the next street over, but it's also a bit older, a bit more worn under the surface. As untraditional as it may seem holding indie-rock shows in a converted church, it's no more eclectic than the rest of the neighborhood, simultaneously housing its huge Hassidic Jewish community alongside students and artists. As I sat on my friend's porch further up Hutchinson, watching concertgoers make their way down the rain-soaked sidewalks, the evening took on the warm feeling of a community event.

And there's really no better way of describing last night's show than calling it a community event. Clues are a product of Montreal's ever-deepening music scene, an addition to the long list of bands with members (former or current) of other bands, which have lineages about as complex as the bloodlines in Lord of The Rings. For Clues, the much-lauded connections are with The Unicorns (Alden Penner) and The Arcade Fire (Brendan Reed).

With those names on the bill, Clues are one of those bands that are famous and unknown, new and old, at the same time. Most people in attendance last night were seeing them for the first time while some had attended their low-key shows around Montreal in 2007 and 2008. Others were friends, family, roommates, industry types, and former band mates. Penner embraced the moment by thanking everyone close to the band, apologizing for not making a list, then "everyone else who showed up."

It was this sense of newness and familiarity, combined with the community vibe, that made the show so uniquely charming before the music even started. But once it did start, Clues delivered on the colossal expectations.

As much as I try to avoid describing a band with reference to its members' other bands (and as much as Penner and Reed seem to downplay their pasts), I have to say that I like Clues for many of the same reasons I loved The Unicorns so much. It's extremely rare that a band can write such catchy pop music that, at the same time, so thoroughly defies pop conventions. Their songs are more likely to build and transform around a theme rather than roll through repeated verses and choruses, yet they never feel experimental in the sense of going over the the listener's head. The Unicorns' cheeky, prankster aspect is replaced with something darker and more nuanced; not more "mature" per se, but more confident and more comfortable in its own skin.

Clues also put forth a very full sound, with two percussionists, and other members intermittently playing horns, keyboards, and other random instruments. Everything they played sounded good, but certain songs really took flight and filled the room with awe-inspiring musical energy. A promise, perhaps, of what will develop more thoroughly across their upcoming tour.

Clues' next Montreal show will be at Sala Rosa on June 18. Buy tickets early.

Photo via Greg Hefner's flickr page



Simonne / May 31, 2009 at 09:39 pm
Clues were great.
But let's not forget Elfin Saddle, the opening band. I was blown away!
Greg / June 1, 2009 at 01:35 am
Agreed! I didn't mean to critique Elfin Saddle implicitly by not mentioning them. Because of some miscommunication with a friend, I had the set times incorrect and arrived just as they were finishing. Didn't want to base a review on half a song. But Elfin Saddle are great and I very highly suggest seeing them at Il Motore on July 11. With fuckin' Sunset Rubdown. Gonna be crazy good.
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