AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #279 : CLEARLAKE

A GUEST POSTING by JONNY THE FRIENDLY LAWYER

Almost 20 years ago I was at The El Rey Theatre here in LA.

GTFP and I were there to see Ben Folds 5, who were about as popular as they were ever going to get. While waiting for the band to come on the house DJ played a song I didn’t recognize that really grabbed my attention. The booth is in the middle of the floor so I rolled up and asked what it was. “‘Almost the Same’ by Clearlake.” Who? “Clearlake.” Where are they from? “I don’t know.” What album is it on? “I don’t know.” Do they have any other records? “I don’t know.”

Alrighty then. I soon found the album ‘Cedars’ from which the song came, and also bought the first album, ‘Lido.’ Both were released on Domino Records. I learned the band was from Brighton. A couple of years later Clearlake’s third album, ‘Amber’, was released, also on Domino. I have now disclosed everything I know about Clearlake.

So, three albums: Lido (2001), Cedars (2003), and Amber (2006). No official releases after those. No idea what became of the band. Wiki says they recorded a fourth LP that was never released. Apparently, they put out a couple of online-only singles, but I never heard them. The band website is offline. They do not have a social media presence. Not one of my friends has ever heard of them. I included a Clearlake song on an ICA a few months back (Sunday Evening, from Lido); it might have been the only time the band featured on TVV.

I wish I knew more about Clearlake because I really love the songs. They’re clever, in an English way, and they’re well-constructed, recorded and produced. The lyrics can be really funny. The playing is tight and tasteful, whether it’s a slow tune or a rocking number. But, I got nothing. So, here’s an ICA. Since I have no context or memories attached to the band it’s just 10 of my favorite Clearlake songs in alphabetical order, starting with the one I heard at the El Rey.

Anyone heard them? Anyone seen them? If somebody in the TVV crowd knows anything about Clearlake please say so. I feel like I should get their photo printed on milk cartons…

JONNY

JC adds…..Jonny is correct in saying that Clearlake haven’t featured, in their own right, on the blog before.  But, from my perspective, that’s because I operate on the basis that if you can’t say anything good or positive about a singer or a band, then you should say nothing at all (which is why I take great delight when guest contributors fill in gaps through ICAs and/or other thoughts, views and opinions.).

I have copies of Lido and Cedars on CD.  I picked them up as one of the record shops was doing a special deal with releases on Domino Records and Clearlake was a band who had been talked up a fair bit in the monthly music magazines, along with the occasional broadsheet newspaper article.  I maybe listened to the CDs two or three times before deciding they weren’t my cup of tea (which these days, if anyone is interested, is made with these, no milk and no sugar).

Domino Records website describes Clearlake’s output as ‘poignant and atmospheric’.  Being signed to an indie rather than a major label meant that Clearlake were given a bit more time to eke out their sound and weren’t under pressure to have hit singles, but it always felt to me that Domino hoped they would prove to make the sort of breakthrough that Doves and Elbow both managed, with the critics staying on board while the CDs flew off the shelves.  I don’t think the songs were strong enough, nor distinct enough, to allow that to happen.

But, as mentioned earlier, I love that Jonny has pulled this together – I’m sure there’s a few folk out there who have some fond memories of Clearlake.