Review: Clinic’s “Do It!”

Apr 14, 2008 10:12am

Is Radiohead’s most recent album not strange enough for you? Do you need to hear something different and weird? Behold Clinic in all their glory! Are you familiar with Clinic? They are a four-man band from Liverpool who deck themselves out in surgical masks onstage. They spastically rock along in a tightly-wound bundle of tense apprehension, while lead singer Ade Blackburn squeezes his words out in a high-voiced, nasally, garbled manner. (It can’t be easy to sing through the mask. Perhaps mask-removal would give him a desired level of clarity. But in all truth, it isn’t clarity that the members of Clinic want.) “Do It!” is Clinic’s fifth album and actually their most enjoyable since their 2000 debut. The band enjoyed a brief moment of fame when the title-track to their second album “Walking With Thee” became a staple on MTV2 (back when that channel was still cool) and their albums since (“Winchester Cathedral” from 2004 and last year’s “Visitations”) found them charging along in a sort of same-y dirge somewhere between art-punk and what can only be described as some sort of frenzied klezmer influence. “Do It!” is a calmer record with more variety. It doesn’t feel like 11 variations on the same formula like some of its predecessors. “Memories” begins with what sounds like someone tuning a harpsichord, giving way to a loud, chant-along guitar riff, and then Blackburn sings above a serene sounding organ. The track is moody and if you aren’t prepared for the trip, it can make you seasick, but if you are prepared (which I was) it is exhilarating! “Tomorrow” takes a stuttering acoustic-guitar line and pairs it was an ominous harmonica. Blackburn actually sounds less alien on this track than he usually does. The track still sounds a little like a Western theme from an alternate universe, but maybe that’s because you can hear every time Blackburn takes a breath. “The Witch” is a psychedelic guitar-romp that wouldn’t sound out of place on the next generation of “Nuggets” compilations. It is an appealing rock track, but it probably won’t please the radio-listening public. “Free Not Free” begins like it wants to be a strange acid-rock track, then morphs into something that sounds like “Crystal Blue Persuasion” soaked in ether. (I never thought I would ever be comparing Clinic to Tommy James, but the similarity is undeniable!) “Shopping Bag” is a psychotic, quick rock-track complete with woodwind screeching. (Surely there must be holes in some of the surgical masks!) “Corpus Christi” is a moving and eerie piece. This is Clinic at their best. In fact, it is the best track here. The title is whispered over and over a spooky, slightly surf-infused backdrop. “Emotions” begins with a woman speaking and then a siren-like sound which ushers in a slow, lounge-y, but occasionally ominous tune. Yes, indeed on “Do It!,” for once it seems like Clinic have decided to focus on their songs as much as they’ve focused on strange moods. It makes the record not only edgy and cool but more enjoyable as well. “High Coin” sounds like a lot of songs on Clinic’s earlier records. It’s a formula they have used over and over again, but here it sounds better on an album consisting of a wider range of sounds. “Mary and Eddie” sounds like some sort of low-fi, folk song that someone would sing while walking through deserted green fields even though it has cryptic words about its title characters in “warm sand.” If anything the warm sand is more likely to be in the desert than on a beach. The mood is deadly. “Winged Wheel” is also a more typical Clinic rocker, but it’s got more elasticity than the band usually showcases. It is much looser. The disc closes with “Coda.” No, it isn’t any sort of Zeppelin nod. It actually sounds like tripped-out, nightmarish circus music. The lyrics don’t come in for a while, and when they do they are spoken. The speech is strange. “This record is a celebration of the 600th anniversary of the Bristol Charter,” it begins. All this sounds even more bizarre backed by something that sounds like whimsical, drunken Ferris wheel music. It all comes crashing to a halt when some church bells slowly fade in. Indeed a weird ending to a weird disc. As I have said, Clinic are a strange band. If you aren’t in the right frame of mind, you may never be, but I actually found this album to be odd but satisfying. Indeed, Clinic did indeed “Do It!” Now, there are new, more twisted things to do on their next album!

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