- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2002

Buzz can be a two-edged sword for some bands. Just ask Clare Quilty, a Charlottesville group that went from having its first album praised by music critics and college radio stations to seeing its followup, a more polished effort, fall by the wayside.
“The band started as something to do during graduate school,” says Michael Rodi, guitarist and principal songwriter, by phone. “And it started to work really well.”
So well that Lightyear Records, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers, picked up the group’s 1997 debut, “Sugar-Lik,” after the D.C. label DCID first released it. Positive reviews came in from around the country, leading to high expectations for the group’s followup.
In between, the group changed its lineup and toured heavily, leading to the 2000 sophomore effort “Strong.” The present lineup includes Mr. Rodi, lead singer Jenn Rhubright, bassist Chris Ruotolo and new drummer Jay Amburgey. Old drummer Stuart Gunter left the group last year.
“We all felt the bar had been raised,” Mr. Rodi says of the second album. “We were being watched and taken seriously.”
“Strong” opens with the ominous “Anger is Beautiful,” as Miss Rhubright sings like a sedated Liz Phair to a trip-hop style backdrop. The tone shifts often, from the angry, distorted guitars of “Secret Sharer,” to the power pop of “Angel of the Odd” and the edgy yet melodic “Comfort Me.”
Though external and internal pressure weighed heavy on the group, Mr. Rodi says the end result is still a quality record, with contributions from more members of the band.
“The response was muted,” he says. “People who found it thought they had discovered some hidden treasure, which says a lot.”
Without the glare of public expectations, though, the band has been able to return to truly enjoying recording and playing, Mr. Rodi says. A new “quieter” album of material, focusing more on samples, grooves and trip-hop beats, will likely be released in the summer.
The group plays the Velvet Lounge Friday.
Though the band has matured significantly in the last several years, Mr. Rodi says he only “occasionally regrets” the group’s moniker, the name of Humbert Humbert’s rival for the affections of Lolita in Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial book.
“Now that I’m a dad I sometimes go ‘What was I thinking?’” he laughs. “We were a lot punkier, a lot more playful then.”

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