The Little Band That Could Is Back!

It's been a while since I saw Tristan Clopet and his amazing band back in June of 2009, but they've never been far from my thoughts. Mostly because I play their debut album, Duende, quite often. I re-read my review of Duende just a couple of days ago and had to smile; with as much praise as I'd heaped upon the album, the words seemed immature and not quite what I wanted them to be. I needed to grow as a writer, more specifically a review writer. And as I looked back on the review and listened to Duende for the nth time, it occurred to me that Tristan Clopet & the Juice also needed to grow into what they needed to be.

When I finally listened to Purple, I couldn't help but feel like the boys were exactly where they needed to be.

Purple, much to my surprise, actually doesn't play through like an EP, but instead stands on its own as LP. Right from the beginning chords of "Proximity Bomb" (which has the most epic opening of a song since Coldplay's 2008 fan favorite, "Viva la Vida" -- and yes, I know, two very different bands and two very different songs, but the sentiment remains the same), I could hear that the music was a little more polished, a little tighter, the band members a little more complementary of each other. Where Duende gave me vague feelings of times and seasons and emotions, Purple thrusts them all into focus and makes them tangible experiences.

"Proximity Bomb", "So Alive" and "Superficiality Is a Sin" were my favorite tracks off the album, with "Proximity Bomb" holding the #1 spot on the album and for me, personally. Aside from the epic opening, which sets the stage for the rest of the album, the lyrics and the beat were at the same time fun, scattered, and incredibly intricately interwoven. The drum solo from 2:17 - 2:27 was a special treat, one to which I have only this to say: Hello, Dan Hammler! "Proximity Bomb" takes a step back from Tristan's signature funk sound into something a bit heavier, a bit more 'rock'. Once again, Tristan & the Juice leave me struggling for a word to somehow sum up their music, and again they prove that there just isn't any label for them.

"So Alive" slides right into play, low-key and surprisingly sensuous, and takes hold rather quickly. It's a throw-back to the power ballads everyone's parents knew and grew up with. My notes on the song actually says 'Kick-ass power ballads are back!', underlined about twenty times. I even cast about for a lighter. There's something simply beautiful about this song that made me want to lie down on a patch of sun-soaked carpet and just bask. Like Duende's "Oceans" and Purple's "Love and a Question", it's a very liquid arrangement, but somehow warmer and weightier.

Returning to the funk sound I first fell in love with, "Superficiality Is a Sin" immediately took me out of my sun-soaked sprawl on the floor and coaxed me back into the mindset I was in when I heard Duende's "Concrete Dreams" and "Your Love Is a Drug": tasting sex and bittersweet musk while being wrapped up in sleazy, wonderful words that flow as easily as any kind of liquor.

"Ethereal Evidence" and "Black Panther Party" were a lot of fun and I had a blast dancing around to them (which I did and I regret nothing), but they were the weakest of the album. I can't quite put my finger on why; there's just something not quite there. I don't want to say 'soulless', because that isn't the case, but a piece was missing and I couldn't connect with them the way I could with the other four.

Regardless, Tristan's voice was made for these songs, the quickly-sung (almost rapped) lyrics that trip and pause and start up again without faltering or stumbling while paired with a voice and musical arrangement so hot that even fire would melt. It's an odd dichotomy that works. Tristan may be the eponymous lead singer, but he would be nothing without his amazing band, and vice versa. The repartee they have with each other is seamless. I remember when I saw them live my friend turned to me and said something about a well-oiled machine. That's not even it. It's like listening to a single entity. They're just perfect for each other, almost to a degree that is truly stupid. Other bands wish they had this level of ease between their members. And if they keep maturing and connecting at this rate, everyone else is going to be left in the dust.

I wanted to end this review with some snappy one-liner before I rated the album, but I couldn't find the words for one. Instead, I found myself thinking that when I first reviewed Duende, Tristan Clopet & the Juice was the little band that could. Now, they're the band that could, did, and will continue to do it.

I can only imagine what else is going to be added to that list when their next album comes out. The mind boggles.

I give Purple 5 out of 5.