on 16 April 2008
When I went to see Radiohead many moons ago in Victoria Park they were supported by Clinic who had recently released their debut album. I wasn't quite sure what to make of them that day, there was something rather comical about the way lead singer Ade Blackburn kept playing his melodica (one of those hand-held keyboards that you blow into). It was a bit like watching a band fronted by an angry 8 year old. The follow up album Walking With Thee showed the band had a haunting, quieter side to their 60's/70's influenced psychedelic indie rock. There have been a further two albums since then which have passed me by (and judging by some reviews I haven't missed much) but I have been listening to their latest for the last few days and there's lots to enjoy.
Clinic aren't a band who appear to want to break the mould. Many tracks on this album have a familiar sound to debut Internal Wrangler. The melodica is back on Tomorrow and the minor chords on High Coin, but there is a renewed vigour to proceedings and occasional glimpses of a new direction or two. There's a stomping beginning with Memories. An organ soften things as Blackburn sings 'Memories are your pieces of gold' and the percussion rattles like a snake behind him. The bouncy pace continues on The Witch (Made To Measure). First single Free Not Free sounds like a slow dance number complete with flute and ooo-wee-ooo backing vocals which are interrupted by a sinister guitar riff just in case you thought they were going all soft on you. It's a trick they pull again on Emotions. Things go a bit bonkers on Shopping Bag; thrashed guitars and the return of the angry 8 year old, this time on what sounds like a toy saxophone. There's no doubting the energy. Corpus Christi creates a sinister atmosphere with its whispered refrain until that saxophone appears again. Mary and Eddie begins like a proper folk song until it's bizarrely interrupted by a massive foghorn. I'm not quite sure how that song might play live but I'm loving the idea of the angry 8 year old striking again with such a powerful instrument.
In the fanfare like Coda at the end we are told that this album is a celebration of the 600 year old anniversary of the Bristol Charter. I've tried to find out what that might be about but no luck so far. What this album does celebrate though is a band reinvigorated. In the same year that Liverpool is European City of Culture one of its bands is showing not only the importance of its musical heritage but the hope for its musical future.