This is what New Order's album this year should've sounded like. That is, if Bernard Sumner were a French woman.
Not that In the Clear, the New York-based trio's fourth proper album (much of which was mixed by erstwhile New Order producer Steve Osborne), is the 21st-century version of Power, Corruption and Lies. But the warm mix of jangly guitars and electronic beats is much more seamless -- and much more classic New Order-sounding -- than Waiting for the Sirens' Call. Ivy even comes up with guitar parts to approximate Peter Hook's classic trebly bass lines.
Once you get past the initial, pleasing familiarity, though, In the Clear becomes a decidedly middling listening experience. The trio -- singer Dominique Durand, her husband Andy Chase, and Adam Schlesinger (also of Fountains of Wayne) -- settles for an inoffensiveness that functions best as background music, as if the record were explicitly made for shopping for polo shirts or doing the dishes. They're capable of so much more -- just witness the genuinely affecting lounge-pop of 1998's Apartment Life.
The xylophone-laced, bouncy "Tess Don't Tell" and the airy "Clear My Head" are the few tracks that actually stand out. And Durand deserves credit throughout for using her breathy, Parisian voice in an actual adult setting, rather than the usual nymphet cooing.
Overall, though, "Blue Monday" it ain't.
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