In the cynical-hip, flavor-of-the-month atmosphere that is contemporary show-biz USA; of recycled rebel stances and video-ready angst; Jeffrey Clark has managed something strange. For nearly a decade he has explored and created a music prismatic in its vision, always urgent and questioning, yet razor sharp in its attack on hypocrisy and the narrow view. "I like to think of what I do as protest music in an odd way, like sensual protest music," Clark says. "I think the way to unhinge the people who want to turn the world into a TV commercial is to see more deeply, connect more, feel more..."
It was during his stint as lead singer, songwriter and co-founder of Los Angeles-based SHIVA BURLESQUE that Clark's approach first came into view. Rising out of the late-80's underground scene in and around Hollywood, and well before the powers that be deigned "Alternative" (?) suitable for running up the pop flagpole, SHIVA BURLESQUE recorded two fierce and beautiful albums that impacted usually more jaded audiences and critics on both sides of the Atlantic. The first, self-titled LP was a Best-of-the-Year pick in 1988 by both Rolling Stone and Melody Maker. David Fricke called the album "a jewel waiting to be found." Option Magazine underlined "...Jeffrey Clark's lush storybook imagery into wondrous flowing lyrics." In 1990 the second SHIVA album, Mercury Blues, was similarly hailed. Vox Magazine pronounced it "...an album of epic imaginative sweeps..." and Andrew Perry of England's Select Magazine described Clark's songwriting as "truly lyrical... self exploratory... these are the closest you'll get to poetic words integrated into the rock idiom."
The recordings documented in Clark's latest release, Sheer Golden Hooks, were recorded between 1991 and 1995 in several studios and with various backing musicians, including former SHIVA BURLESQUE bassist James Brenner (now a member of the instrumental band SCENIC), and cellist and string arranger Greg Adamson, who worked with SHIVA BURLESQUE on Mercury Blues. "This album is a patchwork of several hard years disguised as a joke operetta," Clark explains, "it's ragged and then elegant and very disparate from moment to moment, but somehow holds together. Life can be that way." And since the tracks have been arranged chronologically on the album, one can hear the evolution of Clark's work, from the early SCOTT WALKER-style pop sounds through the vaguely psychedelic guitar sounds of the mid-period and into the prose and stories set to improvised music at the end of the album. And yet it all flows together seamlessly, showing how focused the scope is of Clark's vision.
During the first half of the '90s Clark traveled extensively. "A band can be pretty limiting; it's like being in a gang or something, and you tend to get a myopic view that's very hung-up on pop culture and all that bullshit. You travel, but it's in a coccoon. After SHIVA, I drove across the west; from Chivago to L.A. through Nebraska and Laramie and the Salt Flats; I traveled around Europe: Amsterdam, Antwerp, London... went down to Mexico, in Veracruz and Catemaco where the brujas live..." In 1995 Clark and Pascal Humbert recorded an album of Clark's poems and stories set to music called Photographs from The Dark Ages which has yet to be released (although two of the tracks from the album appear at the end of Sheer Golden Hooks). Clark also collaborated on a "...Compressionist comic book, sort of a William Blake vs. Little Nemo in Slumberland kind of thing with fake sufi tales, etc." In 1996, Clark moved from Los Angeles to Nevada City, California. "Until recently only a handful of industry ordained "stars" in L.A. and New York were allowed to spit our little plastic pearls for everybody to consume. It's good that pyramid is being smashed. Meanwhile I just have to keep telling the story the way I feel it. That seems to be my dharma, my place in the world." What has emerged from all of Jeffrey Clark's work is a focused, richly textured, sometimes unsettling, but always int mate picture of a world of possibility.
Independent Project Records is proud to be able to make available Jeffrey Clark's Sheer Golden Hooks. Packaged in a hand-letterpressed DISCFOLIO at Independent Project Press, this first number edition will be released in the early Fall of 1996. With over 50 minutes of quality sounds, Sheer Golden Hooks is a wonderful introduction to an immensely talented artist.