Clowns - Lucid Again (Cover Artwork)


Lucid Again (2017)

Poison City

Clowns has been one of the most qualitatively consistent hardcore bands of the past decade. With two killer full lengths (both of which I highly recommend for their own unique virtues) under their belt, they’re at it again, but with an unexpected twist, as many tracks off this new record share traits, mostly through their production, with psych rock. Though the band hasn’t given any reason to expect more of the same (with their most recent effort containing a handful of powerviolence cuts scattered throughout) this is, by far, the most drastic sonic shift in their short discography. This extreme dynamism from album to album, however, is one of the band’s many compelling traits, not just because they can take risks, but because they can effectively pull them off as well.

Lucid Again gets off to a rocky start with it’s slow-building title track. The atmospheric intro and minimalistic intro to Williams’s toned down delivery - his dreariest to date - actually goes over quite well, but it lingers for far too long. There is no single explosive burst into energy, but rather small pops here and there, in what seems like an attempt to create a track with more plentiful breakthrough moments, which just ends up cheapening each individual climax. Not to mention that, before these booming instrumentals start to come in, the band sounds like they’re trying to incite a nu metal revival. Needless to say, “Lucid Again” is too lengthy and not up to par compositionally to warrant its necessity as an opening number, especially when its successor seems to be just as effective, if not more effective, of an opener. The two minute long introduction to “Like a Knife at a Gun Fight” makes it seem as though it was intended to introduce the album, and its energy is much more potent as well. I especially love the subtle, echoey riffs that accent the post chorus, and the classical guitar interludes that the track both erupts out of and goes out on, as well as the entire band’s display of technical and compositional proficiency throughout the track. Still, “Like a Knife at a Gun Fight” is, comparatively, one of Lucid Again’s weaker cuts, especially when pitted against some of its immediate successors.

“Dropped My Brain” was Lucid Again’s second single, and it’s release was the band’s most drastic sonic left hook to date. While keeping a strong punk feel, Clowns were able to seamlessly integrate a beautifully hypnotic, and almost psychedelic (though that vibe may just be coming from my association of the song with its music video) guitar lick, which really makes this cut work. But “Dropped my Brain” pales in comparison to the first of the two clear standout songs this release has to offer: “Pickle”. “Pickle” is, hands down, my current favorite single of the 2017. This was the track that really got me excited for Clowns to move in this psych-punk direction, because every piece of it is so perfectly executed and seamlessly strung in. This is genre mixing done right. I could do a full review of just this track, but I highly recommend just checking it out for yourself, even if you don’t intend on giving the full record a listen.

Of course, I would be remiss not to mention the nine minute closer, “Not Coping”, as, as far at the back half of the record goes, it certainly steals the show. But the appeal of this track doesn’t lie solely in its length (Bad Blood was actually closed out on a track more than two minutes longer); “Not Coping” has a pretty consistently epic atmosphere to it and a pulsating energy, which doesn’t rely on constant screaming to convey it. Five of “Not Coping”’s nine minutes are devoted to a grand breakdown, with multiple jaw-dropping solos, that, despite their large airtime, never come off as showy or gimmicky.

What Clowns attempt on this record is genuinely intriguing and I look forward to seeing the band evolve their sound on future releases, but when all’s said and done, Lucid Again is not up to the standard of the band’s previous work (but, to be fair, that’s a pretty high bar to clear). While I do applaud Clowns for taking risks, they are still pretty audibly out of the element. The conciseness of this release is the only reason for which the sound they explore doesn’t grow painfully tired, but they seem to have completely exhausted its potential. Ultimately, Lucid Again does work, but it can only really work as a one-off, and if Clowns does decide to move further down this road, it cannot be without some serious fine tuning. Ultimately, this is a great record, though not as instantly encapsulating as their previous releases, and it’s worth a listen, if for nothing more than its unique personality.