By Brendan Wright
Boston-based rock outfit Clifford – or Clifford the Band as they are better known on social media – are breaking into the local scene with their eclectic mix of midwestern folk, mathy licks, and abrasive ear candy.
Formed by guitarist and vocalist Miles Chandler, bassist Paul Goldfinger, and drummer Ben Curell, the group began writing and performing with each other while they attended Skidmore College in Saratoga, NY, before Chandler and Currell moved operations to the Boston area last summer. After releasing their debut EP, Eggshells, in early 2020, the trio quickly began working on their next project, only to be interrupted by the inevitable events of the pandemic. Despite Goldfinger residing over two hundred miles away in Brooklyn, NY, the trio avidly continued to work remotely and socially distanced, never truly losing sight of their creative vision until their long-awaited debut LP’s completion. Last week, listeners were finally blessed with, “White Hat,” the first of several singles off the upcoming album of the same name that unleashes 16 months of the repressed live energy that the band had been building since before the Eggshells era.
From the track’s onset, Chandler demonstrates an impressive ability to convey introspective and thoughtful material, raspily cantillating, “Self immolation is a hard crutch to lean on when you're waiting for pity to put out the flames.” This painstaking and alliterative comment on self-deprecating behavior poetically paddles off of Curell’s technical chops, corroborating undeniable attention to detail. Such efforts might render some modern rock groups sterile, sacrificing abraded energy for precision, however Clifford manages to embrace the abrasive and raw elements in a way that pushes them forward.
Some success to this sound can be attributed to bassist Goldfinger, a jazz cat in his own right who has traded his bombastic improvisational skills for a slightly reserved style of performance. Goldfinger acts as the spinal base for what would otherwise be a track too unhinged for its own right. As a result, Clifford stays tight and collected, all with the fervor of absolute mad men.
If I were to make a comparison, “White Hat” sounds like a young Bob Dylan stomped on a fuzz box, and recited a hardcore slam poem with Pile as his backing band. Ultimately, it compiles the noise of a liberal arts degree marinating in Allston's ratty basements, and the future of Boston’s alt fringe scene.
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