The Cliks’ Black Tie Elevator
Be prepared for a surprise when you put on The Cliks’ latest album Black Tie Elevator. Instead of the poppy, guitar-based alternative rock with aggressive female vocals that we heard on the Toronto band’s previous releases, Snakehouse and Dirty King, Black Tie Elevator offers a decidedly altered sound: more soulful, more retro, more… mature. It opens with “Savanna,” a lilting tune that, initially at least, brings to mind The Supremes’ “Can’t Hurry Love,” followed by a heavier reggae track called “Stop Drinking My Wine” — both are sung by a deep male voice.
After splitting with the band, trans singer and principal songwriter Lucas Silveira took some time off in 2009 to effect his F-to-M transition. During the hiatus from The Cliks, he released a solo album and went to Brooklyn to write new material. Whether it was the locale change or the personal transformation, the songs emerged with a different vibe; now he’s back with the band in Toronto, ready to unleash it, as well as his new deeper voice and look, on the world. Traditional ’60s soul and R&B, along with Prince and the decade-hopping sonic explorations of Lenny Kravitz, are the jumping-off points for the intriguing new style, which is ably supported by producer Hill Kourkoutis with an expanded musical palette that includes horns, strings, vocal harmonies and piano.
It’s an album full of odes to love and romance, even if the tone is often dark: “Walking in a Graveyard” isn’t the only track with a ghoulish atmosphere; on “Dark Passenger” Silveira asks ominously, “What if love is not a friend?” Contrasting female harmonies are provided by powerhouse singer Saidah Babah Talibah on “Gone” and by Silveira’s fiancée, Skye Chevolleau, on “4 Letter Words.” Meanwhile, on “1000 Violins,” the loveliest and catchiest tune on the album, Silveira’s voice is placed upfront and surrounded by delicate guitar, strings and keyboards.
Silveira certainly seems to be taking pleasure in exploring his voice’s range and rich tones in songs like “Cerise,” “She Was the One” and the high-energy “No Good Do’er.” In a way, the voice seems like the key to the retro sound. But whichever came first, they’re perfectly suited to each other.
BLACK TIE ELEVATOR.
The Cliks. Releases Tue, Apr 23. thecliks.com.