Club Night Uniquely Formulates a Collage of Influences with 'What Life'

I’ll be honest, Club Night took a little while to grow on me. But after constant revisitations last month, their debut record What Life has quickly made its way to my personal ‘best of the year list’ as 2019 inches closer and closer to the halfway mark.

Photo by: Mariah Tiffany

Photo by: Mariah Tiffany

The Oakland five-piece band has progressed in a logical fashion, leaving big marks with each evolving step; first releasing a split with Joan of Arc’s Bobby Burg, followed up with their Tiny Engines debut EP, Hell Yeah. They also put out a couple of tracks last year which ended up making it onto Phluff’s 50 Best Releases of 2018.

Early last month, Club Night transcended into full-length territory with their album What Life. Club Night isn’t one of those bands that takes two or three records to figure out the exact sound they’re going for. Fueled by plenty of energy and some really big hooks, they’ve struck gold with their first attempt.

Singer/guitarist Josh Bertram effortlessly blends high register vocal melodies with polyrhythmic guitar parts. Bertram’s voice carves out a Tim Kinsella imprint while taking on an indie-pop infused shape that’s also reminiscent of somewhat heavier crossover bands like Awakebutstillinbed. Ian Tatum tackles additional guitar parts riddled with alt-tunings that teeter between Glocca Morra, Tiny Moving Parts, and even Tera Melos sensibilities. At times, guitar parts from Bertram and Tatum take on an almost steel-drum sounding chime.

Rebecca Lukens showcases well-rounded synth parts throughout the entire record; a refreshing use of the instrument as many bands in the vein of Club Night choose to only feature a glimmer of keyboard moments in a release. The rhythm section consisting of Devin Trainer on bass and the controlled-yet-spastic drumming of Josiah Majetich anchors the mix just enough to keep Club Night’s whimsical song structure from capsizing. Together, Club Night manages to grab hold of their own distinctive synchronicity while they wrangle up a grab bag of ranging influences.

What Life rollercoasters its way along track times that range from less than two and a half minutes to over seven minutes long. It’s quickly obvious that Club Night makes their own structural rules as the album opener “Path” deviates a unique course. Cello parts contributed by Robin Miliken slyly make their way into the track on the cusp of the albums first major hook as vocals belt out the words: “I woke up in the apartment where our parents used to live. We need an education, compassion or a shred of empathy.” The song surges between quick screeching guitar solos and shrill synth patches until it inevitably mellows out

Every previously mentioned descriptor and comparison just scratches the surface of What Life. Simply put, it’s a record that’s jam packed; it pushes the boundary of going almost overboard. But this is all deliberate enough that with a few listens each intentional layer in the eight intricate songs becomes crystal clear.

Fast forwarding through a wild ride all the way to the final corkscrew, “Thousands” is a frantically changing banger. It closes Club Night’s debut by proving that the band can push and pull dynamics to the extreme. The song further dives into both introspective and outward glancing themes, with lines like: “What should we take with us? My voice is so raw because I had it all wrong” and “See our death as gradual as glaciers. In their faces, tracing panic of an ordered life.”

Club Night’s debut album represents a collage of sprawling influences and effortlessly tucks them in their shirt pockets. The end result is an album that sounds vaguely familiar yet surprisingly all their own. You’ve really just gotta listen to this one for yourself.  

-Joel Parmer

Delaney Motter