The Cliks

Snakehouse

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    7
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A thoroughly exciting debut, the Cliks' Snakehouse kicks like the White Stripes, bellows carbaret-rock style like Hedwig & the Angry Inch, and has a press release that goes "thud" when it hits the desk. Their bold, strong, and extremely talented leader Lucas Silveira is a transgendered FTM (female-to-male) leading an all-female, androgynous band. That's news, and so is their gutsy take on Justin Timberlake's previously slick "Cry Me a River," a quirky choice that pulls new meaning out of a hit (see Tori Amos, Type O Negative, Ted Leo, etc.). Both of these bullet points are of some importance since "he" and "she" are used willy-nilly on this gender indifferent album and the powers that be decided that "Cry Me a River" should be in the coveted track number two slot. That's the "this is the defining single" slot on most albums, which is even more important if it's your debut. While the band put its broken heart into the Timberlake cover and twists it in a way that's well above being clever, the track is topped repeatedly by Silveira's own songs, and a handful of them are near-perfect constructions that trump Timberlake, transgender, packaging, and hype. With its "Peter Gunn Theme" shuffle and early-Divinyls blast, "Oh Yeah" is heartbreak at its worst and at its loudest in an earth-shaking performance that demands attention. "Misery" ("They said you were lovely/But all I see is ugly") is pure late-night venom, supported by a drunken beat that stumbles but never falls over. Bassist Jordan B. Wright and drummer Morgan Doctor are the incredibly tight rhythm section that thrives on these late-night tales and on the polished garage rock atmosphere -- a little more Garbage than trash -- that their smart producer, Moe Berg, has constructed. They also make the Cliks sound like a band rather than a vehicle for Silveira, but with powerful lyrics, powerful voice, and powerful delivery, Silveira's the focal point like Concrete Blonde's Johnette Napolitano or 4 Non Blondes' Linda Perry. It's doubtful Silveira will grow up to write hits for teen pop stars like Perry did, since morose and bitter songs of casual sex and betrayal with some cussing and swears are the songwriter's specialty. It's a narrow spectrum, and while Snakehouse suffers from a couple redundant numbers, it's a great reason to stay up late, break up with your significant other, find solace in a stranger's bedroom, reconsider your own gender role, or at least pretend you did all of the above.

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