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The Cropper!

A blog featuring #indie music, news, interviews, & the best darn songs west of Stockholm

panic attack cover

Clifffs

The idea of “perfection” has ruined music. Perfectly triggered drum sounds are lined up with grids on screens. Auto-tuned vocals travel through the perfect chain of plug-in compression and limiting and brightening and whitening. Perfect planks of digital bass tone are flown from section to section and the bridge hits at the moment deemed optimal by the algorithm. The album cover is photoshopped into the perfect marketing tool as dictated by expert analysis of research and data. The finished recording is subjected to maximum-volume mastering in an effort to win the volume wars. The band and cover photo get photoshopped into such bland perfection that no observer will ever feel compelled to stare for hours into its depth looking for stories. There are no stories to be found in there. The finished product is just that, a product, one from which all the humanity has been drained and replaced with a black hole of perfect nothingness and just kill me already.

CLIFFFS don’t give a fuck about perfect.

Which is probably why, for their sophomore effort PANIC ATTACK, they went and made a perfect record.

Under-the-radar greatness is nothing new for CLIFFFS frontman/mastermind John Dufilho. He’s done it with Deathray Davies. He’s done it with Cantina. He’s done it as producer and player on scores of albums by other artists, my own included. Something about this CLIFFFS project is different though.

The lineup is smaller, for one thing. John’s joined only by a tight, simple rhythm section comprised of Andy Lester (bass, vocals), and Bill Spellman (drums, vocals), and perhaps this is an intentional counterintuitive strategy – less is more. It works. In PANIC ATTACKS’ 13 tracks, there’s more breathing room than in any previous Dufilho project. And the result is somehow messier. And bigger. Giant even. Perfect.

Mostly, the songs here are not as short as those found on the CLIFFFS’ 2016 debut bill, you’re only human, which was a favorite of college/NPR/indie radio. These new tunes are charmingly compact nonetheless. The asceticism of that debut album has also relaxed in the arrangements of the songs on PANIC ATTACK. A little breathing room for a solo here, or an extra chorus there allow the listener to live in the song a moment longer. It’s as if John Dufilho and CLIFFFS are feeling their way through the darkness, allowing each step to take them a little farther.

Or maybe these veteran Dallas rockers are mad scientists, combining fizzing, bubbling substances at random, and then marveling at the explosions. Producers Rip Rowan and Alex Bhore do a fantastic job of capturing these explosions on tape. And CLIFFFS’ new label We Know Better Records is doing their damnedest to bring the thing safely to the listening public.

CLIFFFSPANIC ATTACK is a triumph of imperfection. Noise and chaos and characters living in real time. After a few listens, a narrative emerges amidst the racket, a protagonist wrestling with the world and his place in it. The album’s penultimate track “Tilt,” a 2-minute barn burner finds John Dufilho reveling in the discord: “…I’ll shout/and I’ll sing all out of tune/and then soon I’ll feel connected.”

In this era of fraudulent supposed perfection, CLIFFFS’ glorious new album PANIC ATTACK gives us the thing we need most, connection.


-Rhett Miller


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About The Cropper!

A blog featuring #indie music, news, interviews, & the best darn songs west of Stockholm

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The Cropper! accepts music submissions of all kinds. Though we cannot guarantee write-ups, we eagerly anticipate hearing, writing about and discovering new, unsigned, and exciting artists. Submit your music now. Thanks!

Thank you to 20+ Years of Team Clermont artists!

We surely couldn’t have made it 20 years without all of you, our artists.
See our clients, only part of the 2,238+ artists and true creatives we’ve had the privilege of working with so far (our first 20-years). -with love from founders Nelson Wells and Bill Benson

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