Wednesday, July 4, 2012

REVIEW: The Henry Clay People - Twenty-Five For The Rest Of Our Lives

A new album from Southern California's The Henry Clay People puts a bit of the old spotlight on the relationship, don't you know.  Oh, don't get me wrong, I don't mean our relationship with the band, which is a mutual twitter following and us telling everyone to buy their albums while they become rock and roll millionaires and fly in private jets to their tax haven mansions.  No, I mean the relationship of the WYMA crew about the band.  You see, if Bob Pollard's many artistic platforms comprise the spiritual inspiration for this blog, The Henry Clay People are the noisy, energetic heart where all of our tastes overlap.

It began a number of years ago when I was driving to work listening to Seattle's KEXP, and I heard the song "Something In The Water".  In my typical, debonair lawyer fashion I said out loud "that's a great f**king song".  KEXP taunted me over the next few months by playing that song, as well as "This Ain't A Scene" and "You Can Be Timeless", while I unsuccessfully tried to source the album, For Cheap or For Free, from a curiously unresponsive label.  I also began singing the band's praises on an alumni website that includes all of the eventual contributors to WYMA, and they enthusiastically embraced (in a figurative, mostly platonic fashion) the band.  Meanwhile, I eventually procured three of their albums, and John was moved to start this blog by a vision of Bob Pollard in his mirror while shaving one morning.  So now we are in a happy place to celebrate another album from The Henry Clay People.

Twenty-Five For The Rest Of Our Lives finds the band fine-tuning their signature rock sound while exploring the margins of rock and roll's impossible promise of eternal youth.  I say "fine-tuning" rather than polishing, because this music is, at its core, garage rock with reminders of The Replacements and Pavement (in sound, more the former than the latter for my ears); the smart band doesn't over polish that sound, and this is a smart band.  This album also continues the band's characteristic vocal approach, consisting of sing/speak lead vocals and call and response participation from the rest of the band.  The results are anthems that invite the audience to join in the chorus.  There can be no better first taste to the sound and spirit of the album than its  title track --

So, there we are.  In a day and age when much of the energy and thrust in pop music is based on synths and drum machines, and embracing and reinventing every musical form from the past 60 years except, it seems, rock, we have The Henry Clay People carrying the rock standard.  The album is tight and fast--11 songs in about a half hour.  And the boys deftly sidestep the deadly indie rock mid-tempo jungle, with most of the tracks lending themselves to fist pumping and jumping around.  Even when discussing the mid-20s pain of having to move home in "Hide", the perspective seems to be that of a young man looking around, rather than a full adult looking back.  Life may not be all skateboards and girls, but no one is admitting defeat.

That isn't to say that the band doesn't record fine slower songs, as evidenced by "Friends Are Forgiving" --

But the key to this all may be in a comment that Joey made about the album.  He said that they wanted to make an album that would have excited them as teenagers, but the route to doing so was to stumble a bit recently and direct their teenage angst at their allegedly unimpressive 20s.  That is the sort of concept that could have gone roadkill on a hot summer highway.  Fortunately for us, and the band, they stuck the landing.  In gratitude, I can only hope that they have as much fun making and playing this album as I do listening to it.

And for a fun closer, here is a live version of "Anymore / Any Less".  This recording seems to represent an advance in touring procedure wherein the band doesn't bother to leave the tour bus.

The Henry Clay People are Andy, Harris, Eric and Joey.  Andy and Joey are brothers, and have been with the band from its inception. Twenty-Five For The Rest Of Our Lives is out now on TBD Records.  You should be buying a copy.  Now.

Twitter ( @henryclaypeople )


Jim Desmond said...

"Friends are Forgiving" is a really good song.

Richard Victoria said...

Great band, great record...maybe the best of the year.

Anonymous said...

Love this album!!!