First things first, Bubblegum is a super title for Clinic’s sixth album. Second things second, the Miles Davis-esque artwork is equally fitting, for Bubblegum is one of Clinic’s most capricious recordings. Offering themselves up fully to the possibilities of pop music in its most open forms has enlivened a playfulness that was previously latent and, thank goodness, they’ve all but ditched the Philips Philicorda whine that grates on some of their earlier records. They are not as fierce or rasping as they once were in sound alone, but that makes for a rather relaxed sort of melodic chaos, equally informed by lounge-pop of the 60s and the garage rock they have referenced in the past. This is, for want a better of a better expression, a right old laugh of a record.
Interestingly, a mutated Stereolab influence comes across at the album’s opening, with I’m Aware oozing a reclined but immediate charm. In fact, things get so gloopy that a gentle love song emerges in the shape of Baby which, in fairness, is quite lovely. This new, soupy fashion cannot last forever, though, and by the time we erupt into Lion Tamer Clinic have fully opened out and let the dark, distorted, rusty scuzz return, with brilliantly entertaining results.
They even have time for a Jarvis Cocker-esque monologue on Radiostory which, with its murk and leaden pace, makes for an involving interlude. As it progresses, Bubblegum easily stands up alongside Clinic’s best work, though anyone with a desperate hankering for their most buzzing and evil guises (live shows often see them performing in trademark medical smocks for added character) might well be left wanting. Softness is an equal weapon to imposing, feral noise – for example, the yearning thud of Evelyn channels an emotional plainness that has been absent from their work until now.
Bubblegum is Clinic at their most approachable and, importantly, shows them to be sharp and direct in their more affecting statements. In the spirit of progression they march on towards a neon-pop future, and hopefully their next effort will see them capitalise on it even further. As long as they don’t jettison too much of their musical grit and grunt, the newness of their lush pop sounds will continue to sound as fresh as it does here.
Find more music at the BBC This link will take you off Amazon in a new window