The Clientele may be on hold, but together with Lupe Núñez-Fernández, Alasdair MacLean is back as one half of Amor de Días. Any music that Alasdair makes other than as a strictly guest picker is of course going to be imbued with his sensibility, so there are many moments when Street of the love of days might be a Clientele album, but there are just as many when it could not, thanks to the blending of his songwriting with Lupe’s. It’s generally lighter than the often sombre and haunted tones of the Clientele, and more consistently acoustic, but then perhaps it’s also poppier than the Clientele have been at any time since their early singles were collected together as Suburban light. Vocal duties are alternated and you get the sense that the duo are having a conversation, a dialogue; not an inward-looking one, but one where both writers are looking out into the world from slightly different vantage points, a world of urban and pastoral light, deriving from both sources something of the same feeling.
Bracketed by the opening and closing ‘Foxes’ song’ , the track list reads like the contents of a volume of bucolic nineteenth century poetry, from ‘House of flint’ to ‘Wild winter trees’, taking in ‘Bunhill Fields’ and ‘Touchstone’. But although the setting is quintessentially English, the music is flecked with Iberian and (less obviously) Brazilian influences; that track listing disguises a number of songs sung in Spanish. You could triangulate three other duos to end up with Alasdair and Lupe – the Catalanonian blending of Guillermo Scott Herren and Eva Puyuelo Muns as Savath and Savalas, whose Apropa’t in particular has the same feel of magic and light; John and Yoko, as late as Double fantasy; and, given the harmonies of ‘Dream (dead hands)’, the Everly Brothers. But that probably demonstrates my listening more than theirs.
It’s as instrumentally rich as we have become accustomed to the Clientele being, with a variety of guests adding to the pot – Damon & Naomi, Louis Philippe, Gary Olson of Ladybug Transistor. Produced by Ken Brake, it sounds gorgeous, quite apart from making any judgment of the songs themselves.
Stand-out moments are ‘House of flint’, a song which deserves to have been made to sound as lovely as it does. ‘Harvest time’ is here in its original form, softer and dreamier and a little more nineteenth century than the sharply psychedelic version recorded for Bonfires on the heath. And just like the album as a whole, the title song winds its ivy melodies around you.
I should really plaster this with declarations of interest, as one among the folk behind the Hangover Lounge concern is a good friend of mine, but the truth is I’d be writing about their first EP regardless, because (a) it contains the first chance to hear Amor de Días, Alasdair MacLean of the Clientele’s new side venture in the company of Lupe Núñez-Fernández, and (b) it contains the first new recording by the Claim for nigh on twenty years. So for me it’s an event as much as a record. I wrote about the groups together once, the Clientele and the Claim, little imagining that their key players would end up in 2010 on either side of a nicely heavy slab of vinyl.
I suspect the Amor de Días album, set for sometime release on Merge, will be something of a grower (there’s a tantalising short medley from it on the Amor website). ‘New wine’ is the first chance to hear how the sound might vary from that of the Clientele, softer and subtler even than the Lupe-featuring ‘No dreams last night’ on God save.., if that’s possible. It’s also notable for hymning a part of London that few if any have hitherto, namely Crystal Palace.
‘Old’ is the rueful, timeless number by the Claim, a reflection on ageing and death and carrying on which they might perhaps have written back in the day (‘Dear’ on the Black path retrospective suggests as much) but seems all the more poignant for the two Daves being – ahem – that much closer themselves to the subject they’re writing about (as of course we all are). It puts me in mind of Colin Moulding’s song ‘Dying’ on Skylarking – ‘what sticks in my mind is the sweet jar on the sideboard, and your multi-coloured tea cosy’ – and of Ray Davies. The Claim for me were always in that league, and they still are. An atypical typical pop group.
Of the other contributors, Hacia Dos Veranos turn in a lovelier instrumental than one called ‘The cat and the cucumber’ has any right to be, while Allo Darlin’s ‘Tallulah’ is pretty too; no prizes for guessing whom they are referencing with the title. Funnily enough you can imagine Robert Forster doing a nicely wry cover version.
Three cheers then to the Hangover Loungers for making it happen, and for what are high quality production values for a first venture as a record label. There are two more EPs to come, and one of them features Rozi Plain, and no doubt many of the other acts who have graced the Sunday afternoon club with their acoustic presence, so readers would be well advised to collect the set.