Searching for Klugs

The faithful rejoice as Roger Klug finally returns with new musical identities

Dec 8, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Roger Klug is the first to admit that his recorded output has been somewhat sporadic over the course of his career. Things were fairly regular in the 1990s: His acclaimed work with The Willies early in the decade; his 1995 solo debut, Mama Mama ich bin in dem La La Land; his excellent 1997 follow-up, Toxic and 15 Other Love Songs; and the conceptual 1999 “compilation,” Where Has the Music Gone?: The Lost Recordings of Clem Comstock were fairly regular communiques from Klug’s schizophrenically creative Pop psyche.

And then ... nothing.

For the better part of a decade, Klug surfaced only for the occasional live appearance as his faithful fan base waited in vain for another flash of the singer/songwriter’s studio brilliance. His creative glacier finally began to move last year with the release of the startlingly great More Help for Your Nerves, the album he’d been working on for several years.

“This is going to sound pretentious and asinine, but I get in this state where I feel like I’m doing the human race a favor by putting an album out,” Klug says, laughing, over early morning coffee at the HD Beans and Bottle Cafe in Deer Park. “I walk around with records playing in my head that I haven’t even recorded yet — the bitch is getting it out into the tangible world. And it never sounds as loud and as awesome out here as it does in here, but I feel like I got pretty close with Nerves.”

This year, Klug’s work has taken a variety of forms, from the crazy seven-minute performance/IHOP commercial video for “Facebook Friend,” a new song by Klug’s “side project” Rant to Save Yourself, to his phenomenal down-on-the-farm take on “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” for Ring, the public radio fundraising Christmas CD. With the overwhelmingly positive reviews for Nerves and Klug’s recent live activity with the Roger Klug Power Trio and Rant to Save Yourself, the stage seems set for a full-blown resurgence by the Power Pop wunderkind.

“My goal would be to have a Power Trio record in 2011,” Klug says. “That’s how it always goes with me, though. I always put out albums in spurts, then there’s a lull.”

Like Jellyfush and The 88, Klug views his reverent love of The Beatles and The Kinks through his contemporary perspective and his own singular creative lens and then crafts his highly original vision of his influences’ work. And much like Robert Pollard, Klug has devised several different sonic guises (the various different “bands” for the Clem Comstock recordings most famously, and Rant to Save Yourself most recently) to simultaneously blur and focus his true creative character.

“Make no mistake, this is not Guided By Voices, but it’s something else I want to do,” Klug says. “It’s compartmentalized. I’ve already got three songs in my head for the next Rant to Save Yourself single, things that I really love that I would never put on a Roger Klug solo record. It’s us wanting to be a bunch of 19-year-olds jumping around. That’s what it is.”

Rant to Save Yourself might well be a repository for work that doesn’t fit within Klug’s sense of what his solo work should be, but he has a clear definition in his head of what constitutes each direction.

“‘Facebook Friend’ is a love song, first and foremost, but it’s also that ‘untrustworthy narrator’ thing that Randy Newman does,” Klug says. “It’s the same as the Clem Comstock thing, like singing about the virtues of sport utility vehicles and all the things you can do in them but never do them. My favorite thing about Pop songs is that you’re invited to take on many different levels. You can let it wash over you and love the sound of it, but if there’s something going on in the lyrics, to me that’s like buried treasure.

“But I’ve had hammered into me from Ray Davies and John Lennon that the words are great but they can’t ever overpower the music, because, good or bad, you’re getting into something else. So, you can take ‘Facebook Friend’ on a ‘ho-ho-hee-hee’ level or you can go, ‘Wait, this bloke is actually making a commentary about something,’ or you can marvel at the melodicism and genius of it or enjoy the joy of the noise. That’s my plug for Pop music.”

Although Klug recognizes that some of his work necessitates a kind of delineation from his solo catalog, he’s confident that the songs under his name bear a distinctive mark. Even as he expands and shifts those sonic parameters, he's proud of his creative consistency.

Toxic had more piano on it, maybe it was more sonically diverse, and (Mama Mama) was pretty guitar/bass/drums, and in my mind Nerves is, too — maybe it’s a marriage of the two,” Klug says. “It’s got stuff that deviates, but I definitely wanted to be able to go out with guitar, bass and drums and replicate it.”

ROGER KLUG ( and his Power Trio perform a free show Saturday at Northside Tavern. Get show and club details here.