London Shepherd’s Bush Empire

[a]Clinic[/a] have finally confronted their late-'60s/early-'70s US garage obsession; so clearly defined is their niche that you can't imagine them making any other kind of music...

When Ade Blackburn isn’t singing, he wheezes. You join us as he’s wheezing in falsetto, struggling to be heard over the wired boogie of ‘Voodoo Wop’, a recent composition and a song which heralds not so much a new direction, but a new vibe.

Well, newish anyway. Actually, it’s one borrowed from the dark jazz swamp of New Orleans, the city of black magic and cryptic blues visited by half of [a]Clinic[/a] not so long ago. They spirited its essence back to Liverpool and now smear it like an absinthe glaze across their short, sharp songs.

Not that you’d know it immediately, given that Ade is still inclined to sing like he’s got a mouthful of fizzing sherbet, his lyrics little more than imagined phonetics. Occasionally, like during the VU-sensitive ‘Kimberly’, we’ll decipher phrases, but for the most part the onus is on us to read whatever we want into Ade’s hurried mewl. That way it can at least make some sense.

Certainly part of [a]Clinic[/a]’s mystique has vanished since their infamous surgical stage-wear was stolen last year by either a sick fan or some impoverished junior doctors, but it seems they’ve compensated for this in their newer material by being slightly less openly derivative. ‘The Second Foot’, for instance, merely handpicks the Cramps‘ seediest guitar judder before smothering it in that organ drone, while ‘Dr G’ simply contorts their own ‘Kimberly’ over a Spector-ish drum rumble. It’s no great leap forward, obviously, though it does suggest that [a]Clinic[/a] have finally confronted their late-’60s/early-’70s US garage obsession; so clearly defined is their niche that you can’t imagine them making any other kind of music.

And nor would you want them to. One-dimensional they may be, but it’s a most alluring dimension.