BENJAMIN CLEMENTINE – At Least for Now (2015)

Review by: Tom Hadrian Kovalevsky
Album assigned by: Viudas Tormo

God, how utterly cold.

I get it, At Least For Now is emotional, it’s desolate in lyrical content yet incredibly lush in terms of production, Clementine has a rich, beautiful, emotional voice that drips with passion, and his piano playing is beautiful and stark and fragile – but I just don’t like this album at all.

If one reads about the accolades the album received upon release, reaching high places in iTunes charts in Italy, Holland, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Poland and Greece, even going as far as to reach the coveted place of #1 and a tidy little gold certification in France, I can merely purse my lips and think about how incredibly suited the album is to such titles. 

It reeks of the benign popularity and showmanship that musicians like Antony and Adele bring to the charts, a sense of being forward-thinking while making no innovation, expressing such emotional angst while not expressing any sort of true emotion at all; every attempt at meaning being brushed over by a uniform brown with which anything that is too startling is kept at bay, out of sight and out of mind for the general music consuming populace, who are seemingly unable to stomach actual sadness.

That isn’t to say either that Clementine possesses more talent than those artists; although such a statement might not be controversial, I shall not deny that both Adele and Antony are in possession of voices only slightly less powerful than Clementine’s, I will even be kind and say that the sort of bland indie posturing is much more interesting than a lot of modern mass-produced dancepop. Alas, Clementine, the blandness of this album makes my heart hurt. There are moments – during “Then I Heard A Bachelor’s Cry”, “Nemesis” and the interlude “St-Clementine-on-Tea-and-Croissants” especially – where the sameness of the affair is briefly escaped, and we glimpse his truly arresting talent, heart-rending and transfiguring, for brief glimpses of time, but the veil is quickly brought back down and we are shown normalcy once more.

I can barely even produce the sort of visual element that I would normally posit in a review, as I don’t even feel passion radiating from the music that’s sufficient to produce an image. In sublime moments? An androgynous figure in a dark, spacious apartment, indistinguishable as either man or woman, weeping silently to themselves. They have a cigarette, slowly burning between their pursed lips, and they swirl scotch in a small crystal glass, thinking about their situation. Occasionally, they glance to the telephone on the table next to them, and as they are about to pick up the receiver- then it cuts out again, and the lack of image, the brown colour that consumes the album, resumes.

Oh god. Clementine has talent enough to make a beautiful tragedy of an album, but he wastes it on this LP. Hope springs eternal for the next, though.
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Author: tomymostalas

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