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MP3 Clara Venus - Greatest Hurts

Pop-tinged rock ''n'' roll driven by a healthy attitude of nihilism.

12 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Progressive Rock, ROCK: 70''s Rock

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This New York trio that took their name from a line in a Rimbaud poem (impressive) took four years to follow up their EP with the LP, but they haven''t forgotten what they were up to. The Replacements influence they admitted to back then is still there, but it is less pronounced on this unusually well produced self-released LP. Recorded in their basement, in a closing studio, and in a house outside Woodstock with no water, it is no wonder it took so long to finish! Co-producers Michael Tudor (Moby, John Cale) and Chris Feinstein make everything sound immediate and punchy, and aside from "Liar", the one faster rocker out of the Pleased to Meet Me playbook, Greatest Hurts is kind of like the dirtier tracks on the last two ''Mats LP''s and the early Paul Westerberg LP''s. But there are also spots of Rolling Stones ("Doesn''t Work Right"), classic rock heavy riffing ("Rolling in the Wrong Direction"), Neil Young ("Dry Razor''s Hand"), power pop ("Secret"), and oddball Flaming Lips or Wilco ("Bastard"). The band''s heart, well encapsulated by the LP''s title, will win you over too - especially on the Westerberg-ian acoustic ballad bawling of "DCIL" and the soulful standout closer, "You Were Right (Never Again)."

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Since indie music often employs simplistic rhythms, melodies in minor keys and introspective lyrics, performers in the genre are too often tagged with "singer-songwriter" labels. This unfortunately opens the door to matching them against such stalwart artists as Bob Dylan and Paul Westerberg or anticipates the promise of a new Jeff Buckley. And usually the emerging artist comes off sounding like a sophomoric whiner in comparison to such heavyweights. Not the case with Clara Venus and their newly released (and cleverly titled) Greatest Hurts. The songs on this NYC trio''s full length are thematically linked tales of losers and doomed relationships. Perhaps the blood-spattered graphics on the CD are a nod and a wink to Dylan''s masterstroke Blood on the Tracks. Each cut from the bitter-sweet "Know When It''s Over" to the back porch blues of "You Were Right (Never Again)" certainly burns with the same soured blood and unhealed wounds of that mid-70s classic. Produced by the group along with Michael Tudor (Moby, Duncan Sheik, John Cale) and Chris Feinstein (Iodine), the album isn''t just thinking aloud soul searching either. Upbeat cuts like "Liar" and especially "Rolling in the Wrong Direction" with its walking bass line can just be grooved to in the best garage rocker tradition. While displaying excellent musicianship and intelligent writing throughout, Clara Venus has still managed to strip these songs down to the essentials - strong personal stories backed by a soundtrack that is just as emotional as the lyrics.

Jeff Rey


Teamed with producers Michel Tudor (Moby, Duncan Sheik, John Cale) and Chris Feinstein (Iodine), Clara Venus recorded Greatest Hurts whenever and wherever they could... from tracking at TMF studios in Manhattan the night before it closed for business and the equipment was sold, to a small house outside of Woodstock, NY with no water because the pipes froze at 20 below, to recording on their own in their basement rehearsal space, affectionately called "The Cave". Clara Venus found great working partners in Tudor and Feinstien and the album feels the influence of Tudor''s Detroit rock upbringing and Feinstein''s Nashville rock experience. The songs themselves owe something to personal heroes such as Steve Earle, Joe Strummer, Paul Westerberg, Dylan, and Bowie, but manage to maintain an identity all their own.

Clara Venus is decadent and positive. It''s cheerful about its melancholy and subversive about the anarchy of life. As "Liar" says: "I got my loving cup/ I wanna fuck it up."

Released 02.14.05
Produced by Michael Tudor and Chris Feinstein
Mastered by Mark Muller at Dangerous Music, NYC
Programmed to Fail Records, NYC

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