Do you like to be challenged every now and then? Just so that you are forced out of your comfort zone? Some say the best things in life happen just there: outside of your comfort zone. Although there is reason I like to stay inside that zone (it is quite comfortable there, after all) I enjoy the musical challenge of listening to stuff I would normally not check out. Enter The Claudettes.
Dance Scandal At The Gymnasium! is their third album. And the first The Claudettes album I have ever heard. Considering the B-horror movie-like title it would have been no surprise if this was a horrorpunk or psychobilly release. The band's name doesn't match up though. And indeed this is nowhere close to the truth, although there is a punk-like vibe throughout the album. That punk vibe stems from the energy that pours out of your speakers. This is not only due to the music, the production should be credited too. It is in fact a brilliant production from Mark Neill who used old school recording equipment to create a production that is open and clear leaving room to breathe for the music thus granting it so much more power.
I realise I am trying to buy time here. I'm struggling to explain to you what I am listening to as I am typing this review. To give you an idea: the album is on repeat (I like typing a review with the record being discussed playing on the background) on my stereo and I'm listening to the record for a third time in a row while staring at this (almost) blank page. No more stalling, here we go!
The Claudettes play something bluesy punk with psychobilly and soul influences. If that makes any sense. Let me try to explain: they are very much a piano based band. The piano is used almost as a guitar though. It's almost as if riffs where written and then rewritten to be played on the piano. Some of those "riffs" are played as hard as some play guitar: the keys are hammered upon mercilessly. At times it is almost as if the right side of the piano is missing, so much focus goes into pushing the rhythm forward with heavy bass tones. The drumming and bass are providing a solid base to work from. Both instruments are never really taking the foreground, but rather provide the perfect playground for the piano. Listen closely and you'll hear a guitar too. It is used mainly to accentuate what is going on musically rather than searching for the spotlight.
By all this focus on the piano you'd almost forget the biggest selling point of The Claudettes (to me at least). What really lured me in is the vocals. No, I have to be more precise. It's Berit Ulseths vocals. To me, she is the real star of the album. She has a sweet and rather soft tone to her voice, but there's a certain strength shining through. This combination is almost irresistible. And one that feels right at home in the bluesy environment of Dance Scandal At The Gymnasium!
Sometimes going outside your comfort zone is a mistake that you regret instantly. Sometimes it broadens your view and you wonder why you didn't do so earlier. The latter is what happened to me this time. I can only advise you to give The Claudettes new album a spin. I think I'll leave it on repeat a little while longer.
Tracks to check: "Give It All Up For Good", "Naked On The Internet".
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