Clinic – Internal Wrangler

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

Clinic sort of falls into the category of music I respect but don’t always like, similar to Joy Division, Faith-era Cure, and Ministry. I think it’s really good, but I don’t necessarily enjoy listening to it. I am never going to sit down and just take in a Ministry album; if I need a soundtrack to my killing spree, well, then that’s another story. Clinic is undoubtedly cool as fuck, but it can be a difficult listen, and honestly, a little Clinic goes a long way. One or two Clinic albums are probably all you need. At some point, it starts to get a bit much (though it’s worth mentioning that good Clinic and lesser Clinic are miles apart – it’s not easy to do this kind of music well). The foursome came out of Liverpool in 1997, and made noise both with their vintage keyboards and their habit of wearing surgical masks and scrubs when playing live. They had a decent amount of success, touring with Radiohead, the Flaming Lips, and Arcade Fire.

What I Think of This Album

Internal Wrangler begins with some tribal drumming on the possibly insensitively-titled instrumental “Voodoo Wop,” which sounds like the Ventures spent the night in a haunted house listening to lounge music. Thereafter, things quickly (d)evolve into an ominous, claustrophobic clatter; this band clearly spent a lot of time listening to Suicide.

Early highlight “The Return of Evil Bill” is thrilling and dangerous, with analog synth sounds dominating and punishing guitar drones throughout, as well as a relentless garbage can drum part. Much of the atmosphere on this album is due to Ade Blackburn’s distinctive dark vocals. The foreboding title track motors along with intensity, with tendrils of synths threatening to drag you into the undergrowth.

Syncopation is the name of the game on the pulsing, anarchic “The Second Line,” on which Blackburn sounds possibly deranged. “C.Q” is fast and thrashy, and less interesting for it. “T.K.” has a melody based on June Carter’s “Ring of Fire.” There are ocean sounds on the calm “Earth Angel,” which offers a respite from the mostly intense experience on the rest of the album. To that end, “Distortions” is a highly disturbing song, reminiscent of, at the back end, the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin,” constructed from a simple but affecting organ part and a reappearing trumpet-like keyboard, and bathed with a truly lovely backing vocal part.

“Hippy Death Suite” (amazing title) succeeds where “C.Q.” didn’t, offering up an engaging and visceral blast of noise that erases the bleakness of “Distortions.” The melody of “2nd Foot Stomp” is perhaps the best on the album, even as it is augmented by atonal synthesizer sounds. “2/4” is a delirious, bass-heavy funhouse ramble.

Closer “Goodnight Georgie” is a surprisingly quiet ballad, actually very pretty. The short interlude “DJ Shangri-La” is based on a Beethoven Sonata. There is no thirteenth track – it’s surprising that the creators of such unsettling music could themselves be afraid of something. This is a stunning debut album.

Producer Gareth Jones also did work with Interpol, Nick Cave, Erasure, Depeche Mode, and Wire.

The Best Thing About This Album

Another tough choice, considering the quality of the songs and the importance of Blackburn’s voice; I am going to go with the synths, which is admittedly a bit of a cop out. Whatever. Write your own blog.

Release Date

May, 2000

The Cover Art

On the one hand, this is a blatant rip-off of Ornette Coleman’s Ornette! On the other, it looks amazing.

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