Clinic Do It!(Domino) Buy it from Insound
One of the outstanding vagaries of the canon of great rock music is the fact that it's possible to be both a thoroughbred and a one-trick pony. For instance, you won't win many friends by suggesting that AC/DC or Motorhead would be so much better if only they'd done the occasional ballad once in a while, and even the Ramones were on about their fifth album before they deigned to bother with what was effectively a second song. Mind you, they're all from rather more innocent times – in an age where it's become commonplace to demand the genre-jumping of a Radiohead (or at the very least a Goldfrapp), is there any place for the consistency of Clinic?
It always seemed likely that there would be, given the strength of their initial template. After all, when they showed mysteriously up back in '97, they were heavily in hock to the Velvet Underground while cribbing heavily from the nocturnal nastiness of the suavecore fiends that had riddled the rest of the decade, and it did feel that they could get a lot of mileage out of a combination of sustained organ, cheerless harmonica, and Ade Blackburn's remarkably serpentine vocals. Needless to say, there's still plenty of that going on here, five-and-two-halves albums later; Shopping Bag, with its shlocky overtones and penchant for following in the are-those-even-real-words lyrical footsteps of IPC Sub-Editors Dictate Our Youth, is the most ostentatious example, but it's far from alone, with the twisted melancholia of Memories and the excellent unspecified-Bad-Things-have
Yet, while it's unlikely that the previously familiar will be suddenly converted by these endeavours, it wouldn't be strictly fair to say that there's not the occasional hint of a broadened palette on display here. Emotions, for example, kicks off in almost identical fashion to Stereolab's Jenny Ondioline (tremendous call!) before homaging Roy Orbison yet doing so in a manner that suggests that, while they've got no problem with him as an icon of soaring huggability, they think of him more fondly soundtracking Dennis Hopper as the stuff of nightmares in Blue Velvet. Tomorrow, too, will be fascinating to see done live, if only because they've embellished some insistent krautrock with a guitar that seems to have been recently rescued from a sauna and vocals that indicate Ade may just have been hit full in the face. And Free Not Free, bizarrely, is so incessantly summery that we'd quite like them to do an alternate video for it where they're strolling down the beach in their trademark scrubs and surgical masks.
Really, such a manoeuvre would be Clinic all over. They may want you to believe that there are nebulous experiments in their basement and that they kill time in the studio snapping the ankles of baby birds, whereas they're actually the kind of wry melodramatists that are perfectly happy to festoon their sleeve with a badly drawn shouty Sphinx and dedicate a whole album, in final track Coda, to the 600th anniversary of the Bristol Charter, proving that they might know things that even the internet draws a blank on. Yes, this might be a thoroughly inessential album. But that doesn't mean it's not thoroughly entertaining.5 May, 2008 - 10:09 — Iain Moffat