That peculiarly British ability to combine miserable self-flagellation with catchy, inspired melodies and near-sunny harmonies is one of Clearlake's strongest attributes. "Cedars" follows up the group's much-buzzed-about "Lido" debut with more songs with ironic titles like "Keep Smiling." Melancholy, dramatic and full-tilt on the Morbid Wit Meter, songwriter/singer/guitarist Jason Pegg is quite unafraid to dig deep into his bruised ego for lyrical inspiration. Yet, "Cedars" is far from being a sad album. In fact, the well-crafted hooks and densely designed song structures show a band that's quite mature for only being on its second album. The production help of Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins) adds a small touch of sparkle, but the real attraction here is the way Clearlake pulls off all this pitiful drama without an ounce of bombast. Be careful, or you'll be singing along, and once a lyric like "I'd really like to hurt you" comes out of your mouth, there's no going back.
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