By Nich Sullivan
On their debut EP, Club Sinister fall in love with darkness without letting it overcome them
Setting the tone is important in any kind of extended artistic statement. Properly establishing guidelines and parameters is a hallmark of some of the best art – even when the tone-setting is more of a palate cleanser that makes it clear all bets are off. In an academic sense, we can make the case that not setting a tone is merely the setting of a different tone: one of randomness, chaos, and some amount of disorder. As it comes to the question of which is the proper way to set up expectations, that depends somewhat on the work of art in question: does this work benefit from the tone it set in the beginning?
Club Sinister’s self-titled debut EP opens with Back from the Grave and introduces us to a world of loss, regret, and the implication of mysticism. Buried in the dream pop riffing are lyrics that reference one who has shuffled off this mortal coil: ‘Leave or stay, I still remain, but that won’t bring you back from the grave.’ This is New Order by way of a tighter and darker version of a Cocteau Twins/MBV cocktail, thus, the stage has been set as if Ian Weidner and Alex Horton were painting the backdrop for a piece of theatre: all are welcome in the grave, but there is no coming back.
The pitch blackness of the sentiment doesn’t change throughout the EP. Titles like No Relief and Sheol transcribe an imagined anguish into reality – the latter being the early Hebrew name for a place of darkness in which the dead reside. Lyrics refer to ideas of brains breaking, having hatred for the world, and wastes of both time and space. It would seem that the masterminds of Club Sinister have real axes to grind against what they see as an emptiness and lack of meaning in the world around them.
But, as with most things, the truth is a bit more complicated.
The aforementioned Sheol pairs its somber lyrics with music that is positively upbeat. One can only be so affected by the idea of losing touch when the sonic accompaniment seems to be made of pure light that is only slightly dimmed by metaphorical shadow. Similarly, Beyond Bleeding begins with a corking drumbeat before being swallowed in surf-rock style guitars that are awash in the chrome brightness of attack and sustain. It seems it would be difficult to get too downtrodden at the idea that ‘words are hollow’ if this is the backing to that realisation.
What Club Sinister do so well is to make these sentiments not only attractive within the confines of their songs, but downright enjoyable as a part of the overall experience. In an interview with us earlier this month, Alex and Ian both described themselves as ‘easy-going people [who] like to have fun with music.’ And it is this that becomes the prevailing feeling of their debut song cycle: these are a couple of people who are in love with music and can make it fun – even while immersing it in the lexicon of goth-pop. In other goth-tinged music, the darkness itself can overtake the message—Club Sinister, though, manage to flip that narrative on its ear and have a blast while winking at the Grim Reaper.
The EP’s closer is Creeping Towards the Deep End, and here is where we can revisit the tone conversation again. Where the opening of the collection played with the ideas of bringing someone back from the grave, Creeping offers the reverse in a depiction of death as a place of supreme comfort: ‘I’m buried…White light turned dark, I’m home now.’ Built on the foundation of impossible percussion and heavily featuring melodies that wax and wane like a werewolf moon, Ian and Alex return to the tone they started with. Along the way, the music’s accessibility makes it clear that everyone is welcomed inside their vision.
All we have to do is join the club.
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