Clear Static: Clear Static

[12 May 2006]

By Matt Cibula

Clear Static are a band made up of five Angelinos who are all either teenagers or just barely in their 20s. These dudes have a gimmick: they are nearly perfect at re-creating music styles of the early 1980s. This debut album proves that they are pretty danged good at that gimmick; maybe it doesn’t prove anything more than that, but it’s almost summer, so who cares?

The big single, so far, has been “Make-Up Sex”, but it hasn’t really crashed the nation’s consciousness despite being available for months and already having been remixed a ton of times on an EP. It’s still pretty huge, though, big Duran Duran keyboards and Frankie Goes to Hollywood bass and Tears for Fears drums and anguished Robert Smith vocals and… well, there’s not really an original sound here, but they’re all put together pretty well. The storyline of the song still eludes this reviewer after 50 listens (sex with someone after fighting? sex while wearing makeup? infidelity? existential angst?), but that’s pretty much your ‘80s hit single in a nutshell right there, so extra points.

There are some other songs that are just as good—and just as derivative—on the record. “Tuesday on My Mind” is so Cure it hurts, but its hooks are pretty indelible, and Tom Pederson’s voice is happy and sad in equal amounts. “Anything at All” has a nice bouncy feel, just like “The Love Cats” or “Our House”, and packs a surprising punch for a song with backing vocal stylistics housed from “Come on Eileen”. (One of my favorite songs ever, so that’s not an insult, no hate mail, ok plz thx.) And although “Careless Lies” sounds like a cross between a Wham! song and a Thompson Twins song, it’s actually—no, that’s pretty much what it is. (On the other hand, “Love Rockets” doesn’t really sound like Love and Rockets, either the boring band or the world’s greatest comic book.)

Despite being so young, these guys are obviously pretty good at what they do. Jacob Shearer’s drumming is Linn-perfect, and Michael David gets a massive sound from his guitar, whether he’s aping The Edge or Loverboy’s Paul Dean. Pederson howls and whines in all the appropriate places, and producer Tommy Henriksen makes it all shiny and nice. (My brother-in-law, who has seen them when they opened for Kill Hannah, says Clear Static sounds good when the hall is packed but have a tendency to let down in front of small crowds. Get some backbone, boys!)

So, although they don’t appear to have anything new to say—yeah, like any of US did when we were that age—I like how Clear Static says it. Maybe they’ll do some kind of weird challenging prog-crunk on their difficult second album and lurch into drug-stoked futility. In the meantime, however, the Pierre Menard pop on this record is good enough for me.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/clear_static_clear_static/