1980 and all that: 2001

Clearlake - Lido

“If you don’t love yourself, will anybody else?”

My first festival experience was Reading in 2000. I went there with my university house mates, Ewan and Jon. It was an experience noted as much for what happened inside our tent as outside it.

Most other attendees would have remembered Daphne and Celeste getting bottles-of-urined off the stage, Slipknot’s appearance requiring the presence of not one, not two, but three helicopters (security, police and ambulance) and The Stereophonics closing the whole shebang on particularly glum and uninspiring form.

But for Ewan and me, the whole event was coloured – technicoloured even – by the vodka soaked contents of Jon’s stomach as it sprayed, projected and otherwise flung its way indiscriminately around the interior of our tent. At about 9.30am.

Jon Cain, never the world’s most gratuitous of drinkers, had decided to breakfast on a near full 2 litre bottle of vodka and lemonade where the constituent parts were mixed to a ratio of approximately 1:1.

After mopping himself up, we proceeded to the performance area to see what delights might await us. One of the first bands we saw was a fairly little known act by the name of Clearlake. They were an ideal act to see as a way of acclimatising yourself for a day of guitar based gig-ery: they weren’t too loud and, with leagues of Slipknot fans still recovering from a night of knocking over faeces ridden portaloos, domino style, the Radio 1 Stage was hardly overwhelmed with festival goers.

It was still, though, I suspect, a little too loud for Jon to be sat against one of the speakers blasting out the assorted collection of strummed guitars, pounding guitars and Jason Pegg’s vocals.

Jon didn’t really complain. He was too busy being unreservedly soused.

Clearlake were one of those bands that I took great delight in loving – partly because no one else had even heard of them.

That alone should not have been reason to love them. And, in all honesty, it wasn’t. Ever the aspiring connoisseur of all things indie, of course I wanted to know – and be seen to know – about the most obscure artists and bands imaginable (and, of course, unimaginable). But with Clearlake, I couldn’t really understand why they were not particularly well known.

As far as I was concerned, Clearlake knocked Coldplay (who emerged at around the same time) into the proverbial cocked hat. It’s a view I maintain to this day and to which I will subscribe till my dying day.

There were some thematic, melodic and stylistic similarities beyond the fact that both bands’ names began with a “C”. But Clearlake came armed with far more imagination, wit and soul.subur

The band’s USP was that supposedly they came from the fictional town after which they had named themselves. Further than that, they named their debut album after the fictional lido they didn’t regularly visit in the fictional town they didn’t come from.

It was a premise they didn’t really bother with too much apart from that. Sure, ‘Sunday Evening’ and ‘Jumble Sailing’ could arguably be set in this suburban anywhere town; but, for the most part, Clearlake’s songs were about one thing: the trials and tribulations of the sorts of young men who enthuse about obscure bands while maintaining a tonne of insecurities.

Me, in other words.

Well, one word.

I even went as far as typing up the lyrics to a song from their second album and blu-tac-ing it to the wall in my bedroom back in Gloucester. You can probably get a taste of the whole song’s theme from its title: ‘Treat Yourself With Kindness’.

Who needs hair as black as the blackest cloth and a face as white as the snows of Hoth to be a musical miserable-ist?

‘Treat Yourself With Kindness’, though, was a kinder, more tender repeat of the thoughts and feelings conveyed in the preceding album’s ‘Life Can Be So Cruel’.

Where ‘Treat Yourself…’ offered a shoulder to cry on (“So much to live up to/you’ve been punishing yourself for far too long”), ‘Life…’ was more of a right royal kick up the arse:

So you don’t like yourself.
That’s no good.
That’s no good at all.
If you don’t like yourself, will anybody else?

Of course, the boys from Clearlake couldn’t keep that level of assertiveness for very long. As soon as the next song came along, they were explaining – with no small amount of whimsy – how they were awful “sorry but I can’t be bothered/I want to live in a dream”.

But even there, even amidst all the daydreaming, there was a realisation that, if there was any chance of permanently relieving themselves of tedium Sunday evenings (“there isn’t much on except Songs of Praise”), they’d have to make more of an effort to stop hating “yourself and try to sort it out”.

It’s been 16 years since I first heard this song. I’m beginning to think it’s not too late to pin those lyrics to my wall as well.

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