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8,023 out of 10,000

Here’s a cool band. Probably too cool for the likes of me. The first track on Clinic’s Internal Wrangler, “Voodoo Wop” lays out what the album is to be. Punchy, driven rock with clever twists, splendid arrangements, played by an excited and talented bunch who drip hipness like it’s hair gel. The song begins as a drum roll driven instrumental, then shifts into a loungy groove, then ends with a warbley call from the wonderfully named Ade Blackburn.

Many will be turned off by Blackburn’s vocals. They mix Thom Yorke’s more introverted mumbling with some soft growly voice that’s similar to something I can’t quite pin, probably some Punk voice, maybe Siouxsie and the Banshees. The rhythms are partycentric rumbles, with a surfy guitar stabbing intermittently, while the synthesizer conjures sadly comic moans and epic drones. The album reveals new cool sounds and depths of melody gradually, with repeated listenings, and, if you can get past the singing, it should grow on you quite well.

Clinic remind me somehow of a band that was cool for a minute back in GGG called Jonathan Fire Eater. They were cool, and had their own sound. They went on pulsing rock romps, had a killer organ player, and the singing stayed low in the mix, because, well, they didn’t have any songs. Clinic has that cool, that energy, but they’re a better band, and the fact that half the songs sound like studio experiments and jams seems more deliberate, as they eventually deliver the tunes.

A Pixies guitar submerged beneath the deep wobbling synthesizer has “Internal Wrangler” surfing a wave of gurgling glue. “The Second Line” features the most precious, fey vocal stylings. It’s also the most sophisticated and interesting layering of sounds on the disc. Even though I don’t really know the words, I’ve been muttering “Big boy evil Bill” over and over this week. Like many tracks, “The Return of Evil Bill” is mostly mantra on top of a jam, but like most of the tracks, this works.

In an attempt at more songful balladry, the murky “Earth Angel” falls on the singer to nail it, and Blackburn doesn’t bring a hammer. The slow building four-minute epic “Distortions” will win a lot of you back, though. Pain wracked vocals groan a beautiful melody. Every part is tasteful, with a slow swelling of volume and the subtlest increase in pace, then there’s a five second surgical insert of a Velvet Underground cacophony right before the end.

They rock out inventively for three more distinct numbers under the next seven minutes. Then they close with “Goodnight Georgie”, a hypnotic nod out to Leonard Cohen.

Goodnight Clinic. I will buy more of your records.

-Dan Kilian

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