High Times in the Dark
Forty Below Records
Pre-Heat at 45 Then Bring To The Boil at 33 1/3 RPM
With a name associated in the mind of this reviewer with a hit by the Everly Brothers, I was intrigued as to whether there was any connection in style – well, no, there’s not to be honest; other than the fact that the Claudettes draw enthusiastically on a variety of classic forms and styles on this release, which follows on from 2018’s “Dance Scandal at the Gymnasium!”.
From the opening couple of tracks, “Bad Babe Losin’ Touch” and “24/5” Johnny Iguana (I so hope that’s his real name) dominates with some marvelous barrel-house New Orleans piano, while the silky vocals of Berit Ulseth wind their way in and out in a soulful manner, over a sharp rhythm section of Zach Verdoorn and Michael Caskey.
“I swear to God I will” takes a more jazzy, funky turn with the song veering at times between Bo Diddley and Sade.
“Creeper Weed” as its name suggests is seemingly a tale of disconcerting stalking, literal and metaphorical over a clattering garage soul beat. “Grandkids Wave Bye” maintains a strident tempo and message
“I’ve got a mind – and you can’t have it” – fierce independence is the order of the day.
“One Special Bottle” is a jazzy Motown groove which leaves space for a fine vocal performance from Berit Ulseth – and her voice is again the lead instrument on “Declined”, where the spaced arrangement and small touches of response vocals to add clever emphasis create the album’s standout track.
There’s a change of pace on the next track “I Don’t Do that Stuff Anymore”, a fine catchy duet performance bringing bassist-singer Zach Verdoorn to the fore.
The tempo ups yet again on the “Most Accidents Happen” where a toms-heavy beat powers the song along before leading into the tale of how “You Drummers Keep Breaking My Heart,” a song which name-checks two guys named Nick – (not guilty your honour) – and does so framed in series of Ben Folds style piano runs.
The album eases into the final track “The Sun Will Fool You”, a minor key jazzy ballad with melancholy sentiments that closes things in a thoughtful and reflective manner.
The album brings together a variety of styles in a sharply performed manner and it’s a fine taster for the live arena, where the dynamics of the band’s sound will surely excel. Hopefully it won’t be too long before they make these shores for me to find out!
Review courtesy Nick Barber https://www.flickr.com/photos/efsb
Released April 10th 2020
Buy here – https://fortybelowrecords.com/store/qefx3e5u4cx2ll40mzcvnrmc5egakf-agxeg-wfj66