Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2006: Number 20

They're not usually this cluttered and runic, Clinic covers

Far more than most, you know what a Clinic album sounds like before you've so much as inserted the CD/double clicked on the icon. Some tracks will be spooky featuring voices impersonating theremins and probably also a melodica, some will be fuzzy and breakneck speed, some will be minimal and sound reverential. There'll be a lot of 60s fuzztoned organ, there'll be the occasional odd noise dropped in seemingly apropos of nothing except to make it sound more alive and you'll be able to make out one word in six of Ade Blackburn's purposefully muffled, distorted vocals. The real difference is how they make these ideas stick together, and while Visitations is no challenger to their genuinely thrilling/unsettling proper debut Internal Wrangler, or even the genuinely astonishing B-sides they unleashed in the early days, it's a more fully realised version of The Clinic Blueprint than last album Winchester Cathedral. Return to form? If you insist.

Actually, it's not quite a fair summation. The ghost of the Velvet Underground has often been summoned in the past, more for the occasional Sweet Jane lick and Sunday Morning uneasy stillness than the bits everyone else claims to have taken, but seems less of a main ingredient here, although those Nuggets compilations are still well referred to. From Family's voodoo hoedown concluding with a mastering suite-buggering explosion it's clear they've got the fire and fun back into their sound where even the tracks that sound most like Clinic 101 (Gideon, If You Could Read Your Mind) are vigorous workouts to a methodology of pounding, almost tribal in the electronic age rhythms, circular guitar riffs and forthright bass. The stew still finds new ways of expressing itself - Harvest is driven by a rhythmic groove, Animal Human sounds like it's been recorded in a church bellchamber with what seems to be a sitar for company and Children Of Kellog begins with an MGM fanfare before piling into machine turned processed guitar over motorik beats that can only be listened to with the lights on. Jigsaw Man stands out just because it's actually a Clinic song that does something unexpected, built on lazy acoustic guitars and shakers like a pagan spaghetti western. The more Clinic stay the same, then, the more they find the paths to change. Just slightly, but it makes the difference.

WATCH ON: Harvest video; back in history, Cement Mixer live at an NME show
READ ON: Not the most verbose of bands, but Pitchfork caught up with them last year


Ben said...

Hmm. I'm not sure about this. I had a conversation about Visitations before its release with a chap from Domino at the Abergavenny Food Festival (Domino were the sponsors), and his descriptions of it really whetted my appetite. But to me it just seems like a slightly paler facsimile of Winchester Cathedral, which itself was a slightly paler facsimile of Walking With Thee, which itself was a slightly paler facsimile of Internal Wrangler...

Nothing much new - and though familiarity hasn't bred contempt or even indifference, it has meant that Visitations hasn't registered that much of an impression.

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