- 06 Sep 04
Clinic may not be a band to take home to mum, not like that nice Franz Ferdinand – but they’re a dark dart of pleasure.
Something’s going right when Clinic can get a Grammy nomination, as they did for 2002’s Walking With Thee – we’re not exactly talking Shania Twain here. I first came across them when I heard ‘Distortions’, their contribution to Worlds of Possibility, the Franz Ferdinand-showcasing collection to mark the tenth anniversary of Domino Records; and even with the likes of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Quickspace knocking around for comparison, there was clearly still something pretty funny going on.
A perverse, gorgeous thing, ‘Distortions’ managed both to be enthralled by the details of primal bodily functions – “I want to know my body / I want this out, not in me / I want no other leakage / I want to know no secrets” – and also, by virtue of Ade Blackburn’s high whine and Clinic’s ultra-clean production, to keep a sterile, sinister distance. It sounded uncomfortable in its own skin.
‘Distortions’ is not on Winchester Cathedral, but its spirit is. These are hard, detached, disoriented songs. In ‘Thank You (For Living)’, ‘Country Mile’ and ‘W.D.Y.Y.B’, Blackburn sings like he’s wild-eyed, like he’s constantly trying to escape, the driving guitar rhythms behind him pushing him further and further on.
There’s no space to settle down, and if there is uncomplicated earthy beauty it’s in the scattered Eastern melodies; I hear the melodica line of ‘Anne’ and the marimba of ‘The Magician’, and picture minarets. Maybe that’s their intention, or else it’s a coincidence that the first instrumental on the album is the spiralling ‘Vertical Take Off in Egypt’.
If there’s a criticism, it’s that a few of their thumping rhythms and staccato piano motifs get repeated through the album, but you excuse that because the surrounding instrumentation stays fresh and the sense of urgency remains compelling all along. So, Clinic may not be a band to take home to mum, not like that nice Franz Ferdinand – but they’re a dark dart of pleasure.