The 3 Clubmen (EP)

The 3 Clubmen

Lighterthief Music, 2023

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


What an interesting conglomeration of talents and what interesting music they’ve made together.

That was my first reaction upon encountering The 3 Clubmen, a long-gestating collaboration between ex-XTC man Andy Partridge (vocals/guitars/programming/production), Jen Olive (vocals/guitar) and Stu Rowe (bass/guitars/keys/programming/production). The three traded ideas and files for more than a decade as they considered whether to issue an album or anything at all, before settling on the four songs that make up this brief, richly textured and delightfully tasty EP.

The resulting collection has all the detail and density one would expect from a meticulous craftsman like Partridge, while featuring a range of distinctively different and intriguing layers and elements. “The songs are sparkling, inventive, brain-twistingly unconventional and yet completely accessible,” says Paul F. Cook of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Joyzine, and I see no upside in trying to come up with a more spot-on description than that (kudos, Paul).

Opener and lead single “Aviatrix” has a very XTC feel to the production, clean, precise and melodic with skittery drums and finely picked guitars… and then it takes on the rhythm and cadence of Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” with a sort of African roll to the melody and the percussion… and then Olive comes in singing/chanting a lyric that chooses assonance and alliteration over meaning again and again. “Build butter bridge for the aviatrix / Filled up the fridge with those flying food bricks” goes the opening couplet; it’s Jon Anderson-level sound painting, with an extra hit of psychedelics on board. The combination of these elements is both fascinating and entrancing.

“Racecar” uses found sounds and loops to develop a deep groove. Like much of this EP, it’s densely textured and a little hard to get inside of emotionally, but it’s stylish and fun; it has real snap and is a bit saucy (“You’re gonna need to get yourself a racecar, baby”).

“Green Green Grasshopper” is another weird, arty poem set to rhythmically interesting, intricately layered music, with Partridge and Olive trading lead vocals, that finishes up with a plane flying over because…? Just because. (Maybe it’s the aviatrix?)

Closer “Look At Those Stars” opens with vintage sounds and keyboard tones and a wordless vocal. As it develops it has a kind of a retro-slash-modern pop feel, and a solid hook. The lyric, which moves between languorous verses and bright choruses, seems to address the way we use natural beauty to distract from the things that trouble us.

The 3 Clubmen at times feels like contemporary visual art transmuted into sound; it’s both abstract and flashy, specific and constantly morphing, and delights in not just breaking but ignoring the so-called rules of the form. Most of all, it’s unique, and proud of being so. I can’t say I loved it, but it was quite intriguing. It’s thoroughly modern art-pop that pairs well with whatever opens your mind to new and genuinely different experiences.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2023 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Lighterthief Music, and is used for informational purposes only.