The violet hour by the Clientele review

Joshua Geaughan, staff reporter

The Violet Hour came out in 2003


Blood, guts, and gore, devils stalking in the night, haunted dolls; the constant bombardment with “the new scariest thing” can get tiring after a while. Perhaps we need to take a second and see “scary” through a different, softer perspective. The Clientele’s first album, the violet hour, released in 2003, is the perfect break from the horror we have become accustomed to;  gothic imagery and foggy tone provide a look into the creatures of the night without trying to elicit a scream from the audience.

The first practical example of the clientele’s love for the night comes from the album art. The art for the cover is blurry, a photo was taken from a moving bus in the dark of night,  the green light silhouetting the passing trees that haunt the bottom half of the frame like ghosts. It is a good representation of the sound of the album; blurry and illogical but pervasive enough to comfort one from the outdoors. The clientele sings about climbing moss or burning fireplaces but with no coherent meaning, causing the listener to create an abstract picture of the emotions that the lyrics paint, reframing dangerous landscapes (the park at night, a dark alley) into very comfortable and ideal places to be. 

My favorite songs on the album are the House Always Wins and its follow-up Policeman Getting Lost, they do an excellent job at conveying the solitude of spending time with someone else and use the driving nature of the album’s drum backing to paint a hazy picture. House always wins is a long song (about 8 minutes) the type of easy listening that the album pertains to should not be able to hold a slow pace over 8 minutes, but the quality of the song surpasses all worries about length. The singing style of lead singer Alasdair Maclean sends you to the barrier between dreamlike sleep and acute awareness of your surroundings, and the finger-picking style of the guitar set over a carefully placed tambourine only adds to the surrealism of the song.  The house always wins is the purest expression of why this album works so well, it’s dizzy and illogical but there is a heart to it that holds everything together. It is the perfect song for driving at night or sitting with friends near a fire, it makes the darkness of the night seem like a blanket from the sun.  Policeman getting lost is the closing song of the album, and it is the culmination of everything the album has put up before it. If the whole album was walking the line of sleep, this song pushes you into the murky unknowns of dreams, guiding you slowly into the comfort that the rest of the album promises.  

There has always been a connection between sleep and the horrors of the night, seeing night implies staying up past twilight, but the violet hour also implies a lack of sleep. The cloudy loss of reality that comes from insomnia, sleep deprivation, staying up late at a party, or driving is capitalized through each track on the album including the faster songs like Jamaican Run Rhumba (a bosa nova instrumental interlude to tie the two halves of the album together) or the titular the Violet Hour (A consistently driving force of the album). The clientele’s violet hour tries to reject modern notions of what night is supposed to feel like and replaces them with comforting solitude. 


The violet Hour by the Clientele