Generally speaking, contributors get to pick which release we want to review – a pretty sweet deal. However, sometimes the release picks you and that can be the best thing. It really means a lot when an artist/band trusts you with their new material before it gets released, such an honour! I had the pleasure to receive and review the new Clueless record, Groundhog Days. Clueless is a Dutch power pop band from Enschede that has been around since 1999 with its members currently scattered across the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Their new album has been in the making for a couple of years now and will finally emerge and not see its own shadow on April 1st (or whatever the tradition is). I hereby invite you to unleash your inner groundhog and burrow through this record with me.
The opener of the album is You Do The Talking. I love the energy, it sets you up for what is yet to come perfectly. I also love the little “whoo!” in the synth-heavy intro, those are so fun. Not unlike most of the other tracks on the record, you can’t get around the uplifting and lively sound of Clueless. The lyrics on the other hand are a lot darker and more vulnerable sounding, not wanting to be left alone with your thoughts, but made easily digestible by the easy-on-the-ears instrumentals and Tim ‘Voice of an angel’ van Doorn’s vocals. This guy can make a desperate plea to keep him company sound sweet and endearing. The lyric “My brain is my biggest enemy” hits HARD though! I especially like how the delivery of that lyric in the last verse contrasts with the pleasant sound of the rest of the song, perhaps signifying that the “battle for sanity” is not looking so good for him at that point.
The opener is followed by the track There’s A Schnitzel In My Pocket and I can’t write about/listen to this lyric without it making me laugh. This song sounds a tad heavier (also less synthy) and makes me think of confronting yourself with maybe not so healthy coping mechanisms, dealing with the fact that you’re getting older, making poor decisions under influence of poor mental health and/or substance abuse, suffering the consequences and not learning from your mistakes. The underlying weight of the lyrics do come through a little stronger compared to the first song, but is still (as the title suggests) very upbeat and fun to listen to.
Track three is called Something Loud. The synth is back, the intro could have been from a The Rocket song. All these songs have so many layers to them, you’ll keep noticing different things as you listen to them. The backing vocals/harmonies really stand out to me in this one. If I had the voice, I’d love to belt out the bridge (which feels more like an alternative chorus). I think the song tackles the feeling of a mismatch between your skills and expertise, the skills and abilities that are useful to assist someone in your life who needs help, and feeling useless for not being sure what you can do for them. However, I also think that this song can provide some comfort to anyone who listens to it, so there you have it!
We shift gears as we reach Bathroom Breaks, and we transition from the personal to the political and kick it up a notch while we’re at it. Speth’s drumming really stands out here, giving the track a skate-punk edge we haven’t heard thus far. Speaking of things we haven’t heard up until this point: the delivery of the second verse is razor sharp, as could be expected when Hans Roofthooft (F.O.D. and solo work) is generous enough to provide guest-vocals. Van Doorn’s and Roofhooft’s voices really complement each other, which manages to give the message of the song more gravitas. We see and know history is repeating itself. But rather than just observing the normalisation of harmful ideologies, what’s the plan?
The Answer Is Zero is the first song that nested itself in my brain as I first started listening to the album. The chorus is incredibly catchy and I love a gaming-reference (that I get). I’d say it’s a great feel-good/cheer-up track! It’s a well crafted reminder to not overthink as much as we do, and to try to come to terms with the fact that we make mistakes. There’s no point in (mentally) re-living a situation time and time again, and Clueless wants you to know it’s okay to just move on. Isn’t that lovely?
Doubting yourself? Imposter syndrome got you down? Put on Scapegoat and your worries will melt away instantly! I imagine this song being the embodiment of the sentiment expressed in Something Loud (comforting and supporting someone through art rather than helping with everyday tasks), although I’m fairly certain that doesn’t add up chronologically when looking at the writing process.
Ode To The Sun V2 manages to be both kind of sad and uplifting. The lyrics are clearly very heartfelt, coming from a place of grief and having started processing loss. Coming to terms with the anger-phase and its repercussions. That, even though it won’t be easy, there is beauty to be found in pain as well – a paper-thin silver lining if you will.
Time for the title track! It opens with a fragment of a certain Bill Murray-venture (no, it’s not Ghostbusters) and also happens to be the first song to be written for this release (coincidence? I think not!). The lead guitar really drives the intro forward, contrasting wonderfully with the harmonies in the intro. My favourite lyric is “You wonder what tomorrow brings, When it is you that does the grocery shopping”. It’s very easy to feel stuck, like you’re not moving forward, especially when you’re coping with grief or depression, and that’s very understandable! But eventually you are the one who’s in charge of what’s gonna happen next. The lyric seems kinda funny at first, because of how specific it is, but I think it’s a great metaphor!
If you somehow dozed off at this point, Timmy D & The Art Of Postponing is sure to be an attention-grabber. Short but sweet, and mostly FAST! There’s a lot happening there, which makes it an interesting (very repeatable) listen. And it’s relatable as hell. This is the soundtrack to not being able to get yourself to work when you have bunch of stuff *internal screaming*. Those familiar with Van Doorn’s other band(s), St. Plaster, will probably notice some hints of I Can Stop Anytime I Want – The Capitalist in there (he’s not being subtle, but I’m not mad about it).
If the intro of Too Far South gave you the impression that it was gonna be a slow song, you’ll soon find out that you are dead wrong. Its upbeat sound might not be a unique selling point, given the rest of the album, but this time the lyrics actually match the vibe! It’s all about daring to dream and give it a go! I love it when a lyricist is not afraid to paint an unflattering picture of themselves but my favourite lyric from the song goes to “One foot in the grave? Well the other’s gonna dance”. It makes a lot of sense to put this song on the second half of the album, a lovely change of pace lyrically.
Numb Skull (This One’s For You, Stephen Miller) was the first single to be released from the album and it’s a banger, a great choice! A proper punk rock track, giving the finger to all the Stephen Millers out there. All the pieces work perfectly together, always highlighting something without drowning out the vocals or guitars. It sounds edgy and smooth at the same time, which is my sweet spot. If that wasn’t enough, Clueless is joined by Perry Leenhouts (The Travoltas) in the second verse. Not unlike Roofthooft, Leenhouts has a very distinct voice and that really adds another layer to the track. Leenhouts also produced Clueless’s first album, and we love a full circle moment.
Ricochet is an interesting song because although it definitely belongs on the record, it’s unlike anything we’ve heard so far. Calming, like being at the beach, watching small waves roll onto the sand. The acoustic guitar plays a prominent role in this song, but in my opinion the real MVP are the pizzicato-style violin samples (a technique that uses string picking rather than the bow). That really makes it sound more whimsical and dreamy, it’s a very interesting instrumental technique that I don’t hear on a lot of punk rock records!
Favourite lyric: “Full color isn’t always right. The grey makes me able to sleep at night”
This lyric stood out to me because I feel like we tend to focus on our peaks, and while that is understandable, it would be way too intense and probably quite unfulfilling if our life would consist of highlights only. We may not always appreciate the grey days, but we sure need them to appreciate those full colour moments, or to just prevent ourselves from burning the F out.
The subject matter of Feed Me Distractions, given the context of the rest of the album, is fairly self explanatory in my opinion. I love the contrast between the verses (more frantic and faster) and the chorus, and the seamless transitions between them.
Favourite lyric: “Words are redundant but loudness is golden”. Perfectly describes the sentiment of the song. The distraction itself doesn’t matter, as long as it works and takes your mind off of whatever is consuming you. But in itself it also works on a different level as it makes me think of how we as a society seemingly prioritise the medium over the content in a general sense. Real deep stuff.
With this last song, Perspective’s The Keyword, I was very curious about the lyrics. Because on the first couple of listens (without having the lyrics in front of me), there were some instances where I was thinking: “wait, what are they trying to say here?”. As the title suggests, several perspectives are represented in the lyrics and catching that makes it a lot easier to interpret them. Not gonna lie, I’m having a pretty hard time writing about it because I have a complicated relationship with the subject. Like, I don’t know what the right way to deal with people that support racist traditions/beliefs is. Sometimes I feel like people try to humanise them a little too much. Like me just now, why did I not just call them “racists”? What good does it do to keep empathising with people that (indirectly) cause harm? While at the same time, I also believe that a significant portion of those people are just a product of their environment that up until recently never had anything or anyone challenge the way they (sub)consciously see the world, and lash out because they feel threatened by that.
I understand wanting to shut out any opinions that strongly contradict your own, while at the same time I don’t want “the other side” to do the same thing and bubble up as well. But I also don’t think it’s reasonable to expect people to “just have a conversation” with whoever defends racist (or any other -ist or -phobic) viewpoints or actions all the time, especially when they’re on the receiving end of those actions.
However, to get back to the song, I guess at the end of the day I do think it’s important to challenge yourself every now and then. To not (always) instantly dismiss people and to be aware that they indeed can change. What a way to close Groundhog Days.
This album, what a ride! If you made it this far, props to you, you’re a real one. Don’t let the length of this review scare you off! It’s not nearly as heavy as I make it look, it’s such an easy and fun listen. Those 39 minutes fly by! Daniël, Florian, Tim and Willem, you’ve all done an amazing job making a heartfelt, upbeat album that shows range, yet it has a very recognisable and incredible sound. Since the band won’t be performing live any day soon, come hang out with Tim van Doorn on April 1st at this Facebook-live event!
You can stream and download Groundhog Days on Bandcamp and most, if not all other streaming platforms. Like Tim van Doorn on Facebook here.
This review was written by Ilse R. Smit.