Under Review: Clinic – Bubblegum

Though it took me a few albums to truly appreciate their craft, Clinic have become one of my favorite groups around today.  It’s not because they radically reinvent themselves from record to record, or because they’ve perfected a specific style.  It’s because they’re total originals.  Sure, there are plenty of overt influences, mostly coming from ‘60s pop and garage rock, but the masked Brits have continually found new ways to reinvent the past in their own warped image.  Their last album, 2008’s Do It!, was one of my favorites of that year, thanks to that album’s taut, hook-filled package.  Bubblegum, their new disc, goes a bit heavier on the atmospherics, but never loses the air of sinister mystery that defines each release.  The album begins with “I’m Aware,” which features some of the album’s best tricks in just less than three minutes.  It’s a testament to the everlasting power of the pop song, something that Clinic reveres quite strongly.  None of the 13 tracks are over four minutes in length, and that gives the album a brisk pacing.  The piercing, reverb-dripping  guitar that wrapped itself around previous favorites like “The Witch” and “If You Could Read Your Mind” appears yet again on “Lion Tamer” and the closing “Orangutan.”  As usual, it’s a little tough to understand what Ade Blackburn is singing, let alone what the songs are about, but that obscurity has gone from being a nuisance to a cornerstone of the band’s sound.

The mellowed-out, acoustic-based psychedelia that makes up most of Bubblegum is clearly the direction that Clinic is pursuing these days.  What that sound lacks in immediacy and explosiveness, it makes up for by being effortlessly cool.  The loopy “Freemason Waltz” and “Forever (Demis’ Blues)” show off some demented slide guitar work, and “Linda” and “Evelyn” provide two sides of Clinic’s behavior towards the ladies.  The first is a somber ballad while the latter is a fuzzed-out stomp.  Each Clinic album has at least one truly baffling inclusion, and on Bubblegum, it’s “Radiostory.”  The interlude recalls The Velvet Underground’s nefarious story, “The Gift,” save for the fact that it’s about a quarter of the length.  Bubblegum is an album for Clinic fans, and might not be the best place for a newcomer to start.  Then again, Clinic are such a strange group that plunging yourself into any phase of their career is bound to leave you feeling satisfied, if a little creeped out.

~ by E. on October 4, 2010.

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