Clearance: Carte Blanche plus one

There are many mysteries in this world that continue to perplex, puzzle and confound scholars and intellectuals alike. What influenced the 71 year old Harrison Ford to suddenly pierce his left ear? The ever eccentric Mr T from the 1980s trash TV show The A Team simply begs the question why? And If there is a god, why did she/he take the legendary Curtis Mayfield from us at such an early age? Into the void of the great unknown these questions must remain. But one fact is undisputed Ford, Mr T and Mayfield all originate from Chicago, Illinois, USA.  And it’s here in the great windy city where I come across the magnificent Clearance who have just released their third offering on Bandcamp “Carte Blanche” plus one .

Harvest for the world

Good things come out of Chicago

In 1833, the Town of Chicago had a population of around 200. Today it is the 3rd most populous city in the United States with 2.7 million residents. It is also home to the annual Lollapalooza and PitchFork music festivals. The city has a vibrant and creative cocktail of rock, punk, soul, jazz, hiphop, house and rave music all pitching for their adoring audiences.

In the midst of Chicago’s musical tapestry Clearance find themselves in this vast scene that is broadly described as rock. Clearance are in the space of garage and  LoFi band land, which has given us The Stooges, Danny Adler, The Fall, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Sonic Youth to but  name a few. Its a hard place to work and achieve stardom from given today’s X-Factor route to riches would be counterintuitive to the art form.

I have a live Sex Pistols bootleg from 1977 and as the drums kick-in to the Pistols version of the Stooges No Fun Johnny Rotten mutters to the audience, “I bet you thought I came here to entertain you rather than you entertain me.”  A classic chicken and egg metaphor, but one that sums up those bands who decide to follow a path of integrity and credibility to themselves. Musically it is this space that I personally find Clearance. Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan a city renowned for its progressive politics the founding members of Clearance Mike Bellis and Arthur Velez relocated to Chicago and have since released two 7″ EP’s Dixie Motel Two-Step (April 2013) and Greensleeve (January 2014) on their own Microluxe imprint.

On the 29th March 2014 the band released their 3rd Bandcamp offering “Carte Blanche’ plus one

The sign of a great band lies in their ability to evolve and expand their musical horizons with each new release. Based on the evidence to date Clearance are an embodiment of this notion. There are plenty of bands around who are more than capable of churning out medico material and with the help of a few production twitches and the ad man’s expertise quickly find their faces on anxiety ridden teenage T-shirts. With Clearance you get a real sense of a hard working band seeking to secure appreciation for their art form through a dedication to maintaining independent integrity. This of course is admirable and is worth the ticket price alone, but in reality this means little if the material is not consistent in quality.

Clearance seem to have any ability to toss out brilliant, catchy and intelligent songs. This all bolds well for the future given the solid platform they are building for themselves. The songs are built around clever lyrical structures and offset by guitar textures. Their songs can initially deceive the listener, but lurking beneath a few listens is a revealing depth and intelligence.

Carte Blanche plus one (March 2014)

I’ve listened to Carte Blanche on repeat loop and its one of them songs that never seems to get stale. Looking through the eye of life via a narrative of a road trip the track bounces about gleefully with amazing drum work underscoring the building guitar textures and the eloquent lyrics,  “Darling don’t you dwell upon the exit sign and know that time is going to wound the heals.” The second track is a blend of Misdirection Prize/TV Exhaust is my personal favourite of this release and a supreme piece of work. The fade out and fade into TV Exhaust is at first a little baffling, but ends up providing a rye smile.

I managed to catch up with Mike Bellis from Clearance for a few Old Man questions about the new material:

JK:  What you guys up to at the moment?
MBLaundry, and continuing to waste our money on padding our record collections.
JK: The feel, sound and production on these two tracks demonstrate another step up. How do they feel to you and what feed back have you had?
MB: They feel fine to us – like the last two records they were also recorded in a basement, though this time it was in a different one. We had the luxury of using our friend’s tape machine this time, which always makes things sound better.
JKWhen were the tracks written and what were the main influences at the time?
MB: The tracks were written in January, and when we weren’t listening to friends bands it was probably just the Velvet Underground in ’69 or Danny Kirwan-era Fleetwood Mac. Maybe some Faust too.
JK: Will we get to see a full album release soon?
MB: Yes, eventually.
JK: Any live gigs planned? (UK maybe)?
MB: Only stateside so far, but if we can find anyone willing to pony up the change to send us across the pond we’d be delighted to meet the Queen’s acquaintance.
JK: What are you guys listening to at the moment?
MB: Older stuff mostly- Beefheart, Minutemen, Teenage Fanclub, glam-era Eno, Faust, John Cale (“Fear”), kosmische stuff. But also newer bands like Parquet Courts, Protomartyr, and The Courtneys.
JK: I hear you have a soft spot for Mark E Smith and The Fall?
MB: Who doesn’t?

Back to the Future

Clearance’s back catalogue is also available from Bandcamp – you will do music and the world a favour by purchasing them immediately.

Greensleeve 

Full of amazing hooks and skewed observations this glorious 5 track EP is a little gem. Lo-fi maybe, but high quality throughout. My stand out track: Face the Frontier. 

Dixie Motel Two – Step 

The opening track Walking Papers is simply a classic and would not have gone a miss on an early Sonic Youth album. The EP is again full of hooks and heart warming riffs. In many ways the LoFi production of this early material make it so good.

I demand an LP and I want it now!

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