Clinic : Walking With Thee


The masked men, slightly averagely, return...

The trouble was, Clinic were perfect in the beginning. Blazing out of

Liverpool dressed in blood-spattered surgeon’s overalls, brandishing a single

called ‘IPC Subeditors Dictate Our Youth’ that sounded like New York City

synth-punks Suicide strung up by the neck with John Cale’s piano wire, they

were the indie band that restored your faith in indie bands: a shot of

sneering punk-rock malcontent right in the arm.

Right now, too, their star is in the ascendant. Hand-picked by Thom Yorke to

support Radiohead on the world-conquering ‘Kid A’ tour, Clinic are now the

toast of the discerning American lo-fi fraternity. Their second album, ‘Walking With Thee’

should just be a mere formality.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work. Not for the reasons most commonly cited, though. No, the critical assumption

that Clinic were mere Velvet Underground copyists was always laughably awry.

From the beginning, these four Scouse lads were rock’s Dr Frankensteins, devious graverobbers stitching

together gobbets of avant-garde musical history – Crime, The Shangri-La’s,

Joe Meek, Phil Spector, The Stooges – into

one monstrous, complete whole.

But on ‘Walking With Thee’, Clinic suddenly sound more like vultures than

magpies. The opening three tracks – ‘Harmony’, ‘The Equaliser’, and ‘Welcome’

stalk past with a sinister rattle: a retread of past glories, sure, but none

the worse for it. But it’s around the sixth track, ‘Come Into Our Room’ – a

teeth-grindingly familiar murk of drum machine sputter and chill vibraphone

squeal that clings to formula like a malnourished infant – that your patience

finally snaps. Throughout the album, singer Ade Blackburn sounds like some tragic Faustian

character, granted the backdrop to spirit the music of his heroes into sound,

but cursed to lack the soul to bring it to life. The lush, touching

‘Distortions’ was a highlight of Clinic‘s debut, ‘Internal Wrangler’. It

finds no equivalent here.

‘Walking With Thee’ is barely forty minutes in length, but feels about half

that length – not because it flies by, but because throughout, it barely

feels substantial. Clinic really need to pull off a bold leap of faith – an

‘OK Computer’, a ‘Kid A’, even – to prove there really is something behind

the mask. Honestly, they’re [I]still[/I] a fascinating concept. Sadly, here they just sound like a bit of an

average band.

Louis Pattison