Sure, indie-rock fans are suckers for good songwriting. But most of the time, an indie band is notable for the way it sounds, long before the words come in. Fans can spot an Arcade Fire song long before Win Butler opens his mouth. Ditto Modest Mouse and The Hold Steady. And that goes double for The Clientele, even though it has a very different fan base from the groups above.
Not that the world would necessarily be better off if The Clientele was huge. Massive success seems antithetical to the way the London quartet goes about its business, anyway. This is a pretty modest band, albeit one whose supple melodicism is abetted by layers of detail, and whose songs tend to stick around just long enough to make their mark before gracefully bowing out. Take God Save The Clientele's "Isn't Life Strange?": It builds unobtrusively, and ends just when another band might go up and over. The Clientele leaves that kind of move to Snow Patrol, instead cultivating intimacy.
God Save The Clientele's moody, delicate strings wouldn't get The Clientele within spitting distance of an arena anyway; ditto Mark Keen's skittering hi-hats and brushed snares, or the laid-back croon of singer-guitarist Alasdair MacLean. (The many comparisons made between The Clientele and Belle & Sebastian are fair, though MacLean's strongest vocal resemblance is probably to Luke Haines of The Auteurs.) Even forthrightly rocking tunes like "Bookshop Casanova" ("You've got my name / You've got my number / Come on down / Let's be lovers") and the brief guitar-snarl of "The Garden At Night" step lively, à la T. Rex, rather than blare, à la Oasis. And "From Brighton Beach to Santa Monica" resembles updated Byrds, with MacLean richly double-tracked over airy acoustic-guitar curlicues and matching violins. The world wouldn't necessarily be a better place if The Clientele became more popular, but it certainly wouldn't be any worse.