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Clarks' 'Rewind' more than just a song retread

| Wednesday, June 10, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
The Clarks
Richard Frollini | Coda Photography LLC
The Clarks

Ostensibly, The Clarks' new release, “Rewind,” is an album of cover songs.

But anyone who has heard the band since its inception almost 30 years ago will recognize that this collection is a road map of The Clarks' roots, of long-ago shows in clubs like the Coney Island in Indiana, Pa., and Graffiti in Oakland.

“It's sort of that collective consciousness of what the band did and what it was and where it started,” says guitarist Rob James, in advance of the CD release show June 13 at Stage AE, North Shore. “You don't really think too hard about that.”

There are songs by the Smithereens (“Blood and Roses”), R.E.M. (“Begin the Begin”), The Rave-Ups (“By the Way”) and The Replacements (“I Will Dare”), staples of live shows when the band was in its infancy. “These all were band covers from 1986 to the early '90s,” says lead singer Scott Blasey. “Really, the first couple years of the band, the first two years, we were strictly a cover band.”

A few of the songs are relatively obscure, including “Mybabyshesallright” by Scruffy the Cat and “I Want You Bad” by The Long Ryders. But each song had a tangible influence on the quartet, which also includes bassist Greg Joseph and drummer Dave Minarik.

“From a bass player's perspective, ‘Blood and Roses' was my favorite to play,” Joseph says. “ ‘Like, Wow — Wipeout!' from the Hoodoo Gurus and ‘A Million Miles Away' by the Plimsouls also were songs I really latched onto.”

Blasey notes that “Begin the Begin” was one of The Clarks' earliest cover songs, which they have not played in about 25 years. Asked about R.E.M.'s inimitable sound, the vocalist says the goal with that tune and all the songs on the album was to stay within the songs' original footprint.

“Certainly, anything we do is going to sound like The Clarks,” Blasey says. “We weren't really trying to change arrangements too much from the original recordings. We were trying to stick close to the way we played them in 1989.”

“A Million Miles Away” and “By the Way” have special meaning for The Clarks. The band performed the first song with Peter Case, the lead singer of the Plimsouls, at the Troubadour in Los Angeles a few years ago. And last year the band backed Natrona Heights native Jimmer Podrasky of The Rave-Ups during a show at Stage AE.

James had an opportunity to spend some time with Podrasky last winter in California for an interview he hopes to find a forum for in the near future.

“There's just no way to describe that feeling of something you have a reverence for and to pick up a guitar and play it with your band,” James says, “and then have the guy who wrote it sit across from you and talk about it.”

While “Rewind” is culled from The Clarks' back pages, it's also a look forward. Minarik's son, Noah, plays on The Replacements' “I Will Dare.”

“To see one of your kids grow up and actually like the same music that you like, and also get to play it with you, is really amazing,” Minarik says. “ He just absorbs music so fast. He'll play something that's taken me a long time to figure out. I'll ask him how long he's been practicing that, and he'll say it's the third time he's played it. To see him excel at it and hunger for it, I'm a little embarrassed I'm not as hungry as he is.”

Rege Behe is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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