Review :: Patrick Clendenin, "Three Love Songs"

For Patrick Clendenin, 18-year-old pop wunderkind and songwriter for local trio Clockwork, the only thing that matters is love. And kisses. Lots of kisses.

It's seldom such sweetness is conveyed without a saccharine lining, but Clendenin pulls it off with the flair of a teenage Donovan. Like a bright-eyed Charlie Bucket gang with a golden ticket to spend a day with Van Morrison, Clendenin and friends (Matt Pelsma, Andrew Roberts, Jim Piller, Alessa McCoy and John Eastland) deliver three of the lightest, purest, most non-threatening love songs ever to feather Lawrence's sometimes callous musical landscape.

The disc begins with "Now When Twilight Dims the Sky," a three-and-a-half minute Scottish folk-pop rave-up begging for a lawsuit from Belle and Sebastian. Clendenin somehow sounds old enough to sing the chorus ("I don't want to see you crying in the morning when you're next to me"), and thankfully resists any urge to sing with a British accent.

The second number, "Blush," begins with a somewhat needless piano and drums intro before kicking into a Broadway-inspired strut that would make Neil
Diamond proud. Likewise, the tune features a chorus fit for the King of Croon: "You're my lucky lady / You're my golden boy / You're my wild child / I wanna be your toy." Is Tin Pan Alley still around? I think we have a candidate for prince.

The final number, "Part With A Kiss," finishes on a high note but suffers from overbearing background vocals on the chorus.

Still, Clendenin delivers lines like "I'd like to see you sleeping naked in the / I'd like to watch you running off into the" with such grace that you hear the word "sun" even through he doesn't sing it.

That kind of subtlety, along with simple yet precise instrumentation, makes Clendenin a serious player in a music scene where he's barely old enough to attend shows.

"Three Love Songs" certainly isn't perfect. It desperately needs some professional mixing to bring out the low end -- the drum fills sometimes sound like a bucket of baseballs dumped on a drum kit. And Clendenin's harmonies could use a bit more developing.

Despite the kinks, the record succeeds because it sounds sincere -- something Clendenin's other band, Clockwork, sometimes lacks in their "Kid A"-inspired quest to sound a lot more sophisticated than they really are.

It'd be easy to conclude with, "It's a good album for a bunch of high school kids" and call it a day, but the truth is it's a good album, period. If the world is ready for another Ben Lee, Patrick Clenendin could find himself in the spotlight before he can even see a show at the Replay Lounge.

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