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Album Mon Mar 03 2014
A quarter of an hour isn't very much time at all -- enough maybe to empty and load the dishwasher, take an insufficient power nap, or to enjoy one Sigur Rós song. An exercise in brevity, Chicago-based Clearance's second EP,Greensleeve clocks in at a terse 14 minutes, but thankfully, each second is worth its weight in golden guitar riffs and loping choruses.
"She's a Peach" is 100 seconds of garage pop joy, "Drive Out" is the obvious hit, and the duo guitar solos in the last minute of "Face the Frontier" are a perfect splice of Dinosaur Jr. and Wilco. I found myself playing "Frontier" on repeat just for those guitars, which got me thinking: When was the last time a guitar solo was the highlight of a new EP? That's reason alone to be charmed by Clearance, a band that channels the heart of the slacker rock of '90s yore with a finger on the pulse of the present.
Greensleeve is Clearance's second 7" EP -- their first was last year, entitled Dixie Motel Two-Step, the title of which is surely a nod to another (extremely iconic) record by a Chicago band. Lead singer and Chicago native (and Gapers Block Transmission writer!) Mike Bellis also plays guitar and bass on the record, while Arthur Velez is on the drums. Bellis sings in couplets that have an easy, casual cadence ("Tell me when you taste it/ You're sitting here so wasted") that are nonchalant without sounding sloppy.
Yes, Clearance sounds more than similar to Pavement, but to classify them as a derivative band would be reductive (and not to mention bad music criticism). More specifically, Clearance has recorded an EP that embodies the spirit of slacker rock — a spirit that Pavement didn't own, just capitalized on first, thus ennobling the awkward teen years of thousands. Also: the lack of the now-omnipresent synths and reverb on Greensleeve is almost as welcome as above-freezing temperatures in Chicago.
The good news is we won't have to wait long for more. Clearance is recording a digital single for Public House Recordings that is slated to come out this month. Greensleeve was officially released in January, but a vinyl copy has recently been produced for all the analogue-philes out there. I'm hoping they'll play around town soon — they've headlined the Empty Bottle twice in the past.
Clearance songs sound the way 20-somethings exist. Part non-committal, part bitingly sarcastic, and part vulnerable and partly joyful. Homegrown? Perhaps. Sincere? Absolutely, and it is that sincerity that catapults Clearance out of the blind Pavement-worshiping sect (and even so, no shame in that!) and into fresh relevance. And who doesn't need more of earnest garage rock in this day and age where "Achy Breaky Heart" is repurposed into a viral rap song?