The Cloud Nothings, "Stay Useless" - 3 stars. Hold it.
I should love this. A sharp jolt of punk, clean and simple, but it just doesn't completely garb me. A good song, not great.
Clumsy Lovers, "After The Flood" - 5 stars. Dig it.
About four years after my divorce, I bought a house...a big, century-old barn of a thing. The previous owner had done some work, mostly on the outside and infrastructure. New roof, newer windows, new siding, new boiler for the radiators, newer electrical, but the inside was the better part of a disaster...ceilings missing, old old old and damaged wood floors, missing woodwork. I got it for next to nothing and set to fixing it up. As often happens, I had bitten off way more than I could chew, and after a few months of every-single-night working on it by myself (and making some progress but not enough) I was pretty much burned out. I dumped it for an apartment after just a couple of years.
One great thing about that old dump was a dump of a little Irish neighborhood bar a short walk away. One night I headed over and saw the Clumsy Lovers, essentially a bar band from Idaho that had decided to take a shot at a national "tour" of bars. They were terrific live, a stew of bluegrass, straight pop, alt-country, with a little bit of punk thrown in. They had a fiddle player who wore cowboy boots and a gingham dress, and I may or may not have proposed to her when she stood on the bar in front of me and played a particular ripper of a song...which song it was has long since escaped me, unfortunately.
Anyway, I bought the CD from the merch table and listened to it pretty much constantly for weeks. So great, and I mean every song...part of that, I know now, was where I was in my life, but at the time it just felt like a barnburner of a record. It burrowed into unexpected places.
Clumsy Lovers, "Smart Kid" - 5 stars. Dig it.
My second purchase, it swings a bit more poppy and doesn't hit the more serious notes of "After The Flood," although there are a few - "Smart Kid," "Stand Up," and "Better Days" all have deeper resonances that aren't immediately obvious on first listen...loss, and melancholy, and addiction, and realizing that you're not quite the superstar you though you were.
Really a terrific record in general.
Clumsy Lovers, "Barnburner" - 3 stars. Hold it.
An early record released 5 years before 'After The Flood,' and it shows. There's some good stuff here, but it's really uneven. The best example of the youth of the band is the first crack at "London Bridge" which showed up later on the "Smart Kid." That later version is a pretty good song. This version is unlistenable. The rest is a mixed bag, some in and some out.
The Clumsy Lovers, "Make Yourself Known" - 4 stars. Hold it.
Also very good, but doesn't feel quite as good as the 'middle' two records, and I'm not sure why that is. It's the same formula, same general tone, but there's something missing, somehow. I think part of it is that some of the general searching and melancholia of the others' lyrics has disappeared. Still, pretty good.
It's funny - I remember thinking that Clumsy Lovers were this great, lost genius cow punk band...and they really are pretty good, but some of it doesn't hold up as well as I'd expected, even just a few years later. Weird. I still recommend them to anyone that's interested, but the vitality just doesn't seem the same. I guess I'm in a different place in my life. As I've said before, "my kids are growing up, and so am I."