Musician revisits pop's early days
Issue date: 2/20/08
Photo by Aubrey Edwards
Patrick Cleandenim is the up-and-coming prince of the old-school pop song.
The native of Lawrence, Kan., who recently graduated from New York's Cooper Union, released Baby Comes Home last year on Ba Da Bing! Records.
Cleandenim engages the full sounds of a string orchestra, horn section, piano and swelling vocal harmonies, backed by catchy, upbeat jazz percussion.
"When I started thinking about producing that album, I was listening to a lot of Duke Ellington suites," he said.
He was also listening to Phil Spector and the French composer Jean-Claude Vannier.
"He made kind of psychedelic, orchestral sort of albums and filmic scores and filmic albums," he said. "He is most well-known because he produced Serge Gainsbourg."
Cleandenim produced the album in 2005 when he was 20 years old and sent copies to friends and record labels. He recognizes it will be a feat to reproduce the album's full sound on stage.
"I would like to, at some point, tour and perform those songs as they should sound," Cleandenim said. "I'm waiting for my financial situation to improve. So, it's a regretful but conscious decision."
He said he strived to keep the audience captivated in the shows he used to play.
"I wouldn't say things were incredibly theatrical, but we tried to keep things engaging, somewhat with the size of the group and little sorts of special touches that we could add," he said. "Like throwing flowers into the audience or something like that. But that was a long time ago. The shows that I do in New York, it's done with a smaller rock group, and they've been pretty low-key shows as well. But we definitely hope to expand the visuals of the show."
Cleandenim is one to go out on a limb. In Kansas, he used to lug his own piano to the bars.
"I would borrow a flat-bed trailer from a friend and put my piano on the trailer and load it into the bar and perform," he said. "Most of the bars I was playing at didn't have a piano. Every bar should (have one)."
He taught himself to play when he was 13. He said he doesn't excel at reading sheet music but plays well by ear.
"I took one lesson when I was really young - I was about 9," he said. "I was wearing those water shoes, water slippers - those swimming pool shoes - spandex, and the teacher told me I couldn't wear them in class."
He never went back.
But he did go to beat writer William S. Burroughs' estate for parties in high school in Kansas.
"He died there," he said. "He lived there for 10 or 15 years to the end of his life. The man who was William Burroughs' manager - they had a personal relationship, as well - they lived together, and he still lives there. I started going to parties at the house when I was a teenager."
Cleandenim is coming out with an album in the summer.
In response to a music critic saying he would have a hard time following up on such a high-caliber debut album, Cleandenim said people will be pleasantly surprised. He said there will be hints of Afro-pop, Kraut-rock and glam, and that it will deal with the struggles of 21st-century city life.
"I am interested in taking risks and trying new modes of writing and recording music," he said. "For those who were attracted to the old-fashioned sound on Baby Comes Home, my new album may be a letdown. For those who were attracted to the songwriting on Baby Comes Home, my new album should be satisfying. If you like to dance, the new Patrick Cleandenim album may be your best friend in 2008. However, only time will tell."
Baby Comes Home is available online at badabingrecords.com, throughAmazon or at independent record shops.