Nov 09, 2012 Web Exclusive
Clinic are as known-quantity as a band can get. They are one of those antidote bands designed for fans who get mad when a band evolves too much. If they are changing, it’s at a scarcely detectable speed, like an exciting glacier (apologies to any geologist Under the Radar readers).
And within that glacial heft (and detached coolness) lies all the requisite ingredients: an eclectic, up-tempo mélange of man-machine music, driven forward sharply by the rhythm section or drum machines, buttressed by distorted organs or staccato guitars, dotted with reverb-soaked clarinets and melodica. The arrangements, while bursting with generations of art-rock attitude (The Velvet Underground and Suicide perhaps most audible), are always skeletal—a simple bed for Ade Blackburn’s rhythmic, psychedelic ruminations.
Of course, Clinic’s strengths go beyond their consistency. They do have command of a certain kind of laidback nuance—less predictable elements hopping out of that dependable sound. “Miss You,” for example, plods along electronically before a small ornamental section with jazz chords and tambourine acts as a solo. Or there’s the masterfully repetitive “Seeds,” its trance-inducing organ pattern suddenly interrupted with entire-mix tremolo. Or note the overall favoritism toward Clinic’s version of the slow jam: the gentle “Seasons,” waltzing along electronically while Blackburn muses “all you want’s what you can’t get;” or album opener “Misty,” which is aptly described by its own title.
Sure, much of it is not about nuance at all—“See-Saw,” for example, opens with rough and rowdy snare-hits and drifts off into Malcolm Mooney-style vocal repetitions. Album closer “Sun and the Moon” comes off as ad-hoc overdubs on a sloppy jam, driven largely by attitude (and some choice clarinet melodies).
So let’s drop the “nuance” idea along with the measurable evolution. Clinic’s discography is a slow refinement, a meticulous and ongoing game of Operation with frequent—and intentional—buzzing mishaps. Cue the trademark surgical masks. (www.clinicvoot.org)
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