Release Date: May 19, 2009
Record label: Constellation
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Pop
When the Unicorns split up in 2004, one half of the band’s songwriting duo, Nick Thorburn, went off and immersed himself in various new projects, including Islands, Human Highway, and Reefer, all which showed off Thorburn’s ability to wring melodies out of various musical forms. But the other half of the Unicorns, Alden Penner, went the other route, essentially disappearing out of the indie-hype circle that made the Unicorns such a hot commodity. Apart from an Australia-only 7-inch released in late 2004 and the score for an indie-film, Penner has remained scarce.
Every once in a while, one comes across a band that is quite eccentric and self-indulgent but is also pleasingly listenable despite all its strangeness; Clues is such a band. The self-titled debut album by this Montreal-based alternative pop/rock and indie rock outfit never goes out of its way to be commercial, but this album isn't a difficult listen either -- the material isn't hard to get into -- and for all of their abstraction, Clues sound like they genuinely want the listener to feel and experience all that eccentricity right along with them. That, of course, is a very different mentality from the left-of-center artists whose attitude is, "If you don't get what we're doing, that's your problem"; Clues are decidedly left of center, but they give the impression that they really do want the listener to understand where they are coming from and go along for the ride.
Since the windmilling demise of The Unicorns in late 2004 and main fringe-flicker-asider Nick Thorburn’s subsequent re-emergence with the similarly lauded Islands, it’s always seemed fairly natural to assume that he probably had both hands on the tiller throughout most of his first band’s tragically mayfly-esque lifespan. Then, like that fraudulent canoe death bloke waltzing back in from beyond the ‘grave’ after five years missing in action, Unicorns co-pilot Alden Penner saunters nonchalantly in through the back door and coquettishly tosses this new Clues record down on the table. All of a sudden, we find ourselves agonisingly unpicking the stitches in the giant suppurating wounds left when The Unicorns’ graceless death throes skewered our fragile hearts with loveably misshapen horns.
Back in 2003, Alden Penner was a member of the Unicorns, one of the first bands to draw serious attention to Montreal's thriving indie rock scene. At the same time, Brendan Reed was the drummer of Arcade Fire, and performed on that band's debut EP. Just a year later, Arcade Fire exploded in popularity just after Reed's departure, and the Unicorns imploded and disbanded before ever recording a second album.
Click here to get your copy of ‘Clues’ from the Rough Trade shop.
Intimacy is a trait that comes in many different forms in musical realms. Although it too often simply conjures up images of one person and an acoustic guitar, spooling themselves into lo-tech kit or sitting solitarily on a small club stage, intimacy is more about feeling and delivery than pure environmental settings. It can find itself presented … [Read more...] 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.