Before the release of their third album, Lucid Again, I’d never really listened to Clowns. I didn’t know too much about them, either. ‘Destroy the Evidence’ was the only song of theirs that I could name, and they were in the news last year after a touch of mistaken identity during the global killer clown craze. (Remember that? Yeah.) Now? They’re one of my favourite local bands. It’s funny how nine songs can do that to you.
The album gets off to a sluggish, atmospheric start, with the first strum ringing out around 20 seconds into the title-track opener. The song meanders along, as frontman Stevie Williams slowly introduces the lyrical themes of Lucid Again – conspiracy, lucidity, and the unknown. The first few minutes sound like they’ve been recorded in a haze, up until Williams muses “the only thing that we are sure of / is that no one really knows.” This brings in the familiar kick-you-in-the-face Clowns sound, the likes of which we can hear on their first two albums I’m Not Right and Bad Blood. However, it’s precisely at this point on the opening track that they establish the unique sound that sets them apart – hardcore garage punk, with a pinch of psych rock thrown in.
Regardless of whether or not they continue to make music in this vein, they nail the combination perfectly on Lucid Again. Six of this album’s nine tracks come in at four minutes or more, marking another sonic shift for Clowns, as only two out of 26 songs on their first two LPs are either just as long or longer. Lucid Again doesn’t feel like a long album, though. The slower songs, ‘Lucid Again’ and ‘Pickle’, are lethargic yet frenetic. I know that’s a paradox, and I’m not sure how they’ve done it, but they have.
‘Like A Knife at a Gun Fight’, ‘Destroy the Evidence’, and ‘Forensic Science’ ooze fast-paced classic punk, and I could totally see these songs popping up in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtracks. I’d 110% love to see these songs live. ‘Dropped my Brain’ is a brilliant example of Clowns expressing their new sound sonically, as it’s here that we first hear the psychedelic influence. The opening riff alongside the riff from ‘Pickle’ could easily pop up on an early Pond or Tame Impala album, right until the vocals come in, and we’re reminded that these guys are punk as fuck.
Other than the album’s singles, the standout for me would have to be ‘Noise in the Night’. Its tongue-in-cheek lyrics show Clowns’ light-hearted side, as – just like any of us – Williams screams “Crop circle party probe / I wanna get loose with the unknown / I wanna make friends with the alien babes,” before an explicit X-Files reference – an absolute highlight of the album – to round it out.
There’s something about the harmonies in ‘15 Minutes of Infamy’ that I love – and I’m not entirely sure why. The chorus is easily my favourite on the album. It’s just one line, but it’s delivered beautifully. Keeping true to the conspiratorial theme, there’s a cheeky subliminal message hidden in the last track. A knowledge of Morse Code would be handy here. However, if you don’t pay attention to the lyrics on ‘Not Coping’, you’d easily miss their beautifully elegiac message. The song probably won’t move you to tears, as the energetic punk instrumentals and vocals are still there – but a stripped-back, acoustic version just might.
Clowns have found a perfect balance between psych, garage, and classic punk with this album. If you’re new to the genre, it might take you a few listens to get used to Stevie Williams’ vocals – but once you do, it will be so worth it. Lucid Again is sure to win them many more fans – myself included. Get loose with the unknown and give it a listen!
Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!