REVIEW: The Clique - The Preservation Society

REVIEW: The Clique – The Preservation Society

The Clique. No, not the mid 60’s combo who scored a mod classic hit single with She Aint No Good and no not the late psych 60’s outfit who had a hit with the 13th Floor Elevators Splash 1, I’m firmly talking about the late 80’s-early 90’s band delivering smash after smash of authentic top of the shop rhythm ‘n’ blues compositions for a relatively small army of admirers but who should have been the King Kong’s of the music scene in their timeline.

The Clique had it all, the prime sharp look Paul Weller was looking for at a time when he was rediscovering his mojo, songs with the youthful majesty of the likes of Supergrass plus a popular psych edge not genuinely seen or recaptured since the like The Small Faces/The Action did so wonderfully in the 60’s. Similar to The Action, The Clique were on the cusp of greatness with rumours of signing to a major record label, but with integral members exiting when it really mattered, the outcome was another of those what could have been stories.

Fast forward 25 years those kind folk at Detour Records, The Clique’s mainstay record label for the bulk of their material, has thankfully seen sense to collate a large slice of the bands sensational material for an impressive vinyl only limited edition box set entitled The Preservation Society, a homage to the bands second album The Self Preservation Society. Featuring a breathless array of original material, choice covers plus the addition of alternate mixes and unreleased material, this is a crucial purchase for mod’s and anyone who enjoys the likes of The Who Sell Out, Odyssey and Oracle and Odgens Nut Gone Flake.

Claire Strickland, who has lovingly compiled the sleeve notes, asserts the running order to the album is as the band performed the material, opener Ground Ginger is a close cousin to Green Onions, The Prisoners James Taylor hammering the organ like his life depended on it, the results were first heard on the Early Days EP which looked like something straight out of the 60’s, the band at the time; Paul Newman vocals/harmonica, Jon Paul Harper guitar/backing vocals, Giles B Merry drums and Phil Otto on bass, listening to the material now they sound aka to early Manfred Mann i.e. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 mixed with a ripe slice of The Seeds, tremendous.

Following the departure of Newman, vocalist Chris Jordan’s distinct almost Colin Blunstone British vocals are richly displayed on the forever vibrant Where Did I go Wrong, a juicy R ‘n’ B masterstoke, mod dancefloors were never the same as this I Can’t Explain type tune catapulted out from the speakers. Following Jordan’s departure along with Merry, the band chose to enlist the vocal talents of cockney Steve Marriott twin vocalist Trevor French, Viv Prince soundalike drummer Matthew Briam plus organ grinder Dom Strickland to form, in my opinion, the pinnacle line up of the band. The sleeve for the album shows this line up, sharper than a knife sharpened by Gordon Ramsay, composing songs with WH Smiths Bic pens, the band were seemingly onto a winner.

Tracks such as the barnstorming original Dormouse, The Who like cover of The Haunted’s 1-2-5, The Remains cover Why Do I Cry sounds distinctly like something straight out of the bands song writing escapades which comes to the fore with what is quite simply their best 45 Reggie / She Doesn’t Need You Anywmore. The single was reviewed in the NME at the time and should have been single of the week or even single of the year, Reggie a prime mix of unstoppable Small Faces type Hammond organ lead psych, stopping you immediately in your tracks, She Doesn’t Need You Anymore is a horn lead northern soul epic track of such outstanding proportions why this track is not a regular on Wigan dancefloors is a head scratcher.

With the shock departure of Harper, Bruce Brand was drafted in for the bands at the time debut album which features the feedback monster Bareback Donkey Riding along with another screeching guitar noise celebration Gonna Make You Mine, following the album French then left for Alex Petty and Pete Wilde to join in the tomfoolery with a cover of Aretha and Brian Auger/Julie Driscoll mod stomper Save Me before the band bowed out gracefully with the knees up mother brown track Hello Sunshine.

All the aforementioned tracks feature here with the addition of added alternate versions and unreleased tracks. The pick of the bunch being the towering Anything You Want, stripped down alternate take on Where Did I go Wrong, blessed rebirth of Tortoise with final bow of rarely Kinks cover Where Have All The Good Times Gone being a fitting closure to a empathic triumph of a release. The likes of the music featured here in these days of music saturated in commercial fakery makes this release even more refreshing looking back at a band that meant it and believed whole heartedly in the scene they were enwrapped in. Happy Days Toy Town indeed.


The Preservation Society can be pre-ordered via the following link