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Clinic - Do It!

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Artist: Clinic

Album: Do It!

Label: Domino

Review date: Mar. 31, 2008


Clinic - "Free Not Free" (Do It!)


As its shadows draw ever longer, the music of the late '60s and early '70s looks as though it may never go entirely out of fashion. This stuff (acid rock, cosmopolitan pop and the cold, disorienting funk of Can and company) emerged from an era of creative and material plenty. Its combination of ambitious, abstract optimism and stinging mortal terror remains relatable to most people on some level. And bands such as Liverpool’s Clinic have managed to rearrange its pieces and sound sleek and contemporary without adding anything exactly new to the mix.

Clinic’s skill is not in innovation – no one seems to expect musical innovation from anyone, anyway – but in surprising combinations of familiar material. The fellows in Clinic are the most exhaustive students in the “retro” school, and they play around with its basic building blocks (a mellow organ groove, a bristling fuzzed-out riff, a hint at music-hall bombast, an inscrutable bit of what might pass for stoner social commentary) until they emerge with something at once anchored and exciting. More importantly, in cool grandiosity, Clinic excels. Clinic is lite-psych in its flesh but pure glam in its actions. It doesn’t conceal its endearing flaws (as musicians, these guys are merely competent, and singer Ade Blackburn still sounds like his jaw is wired shut), but it still manages to throw numerous aesthetic traditions together, often within the same 60 seconds, with total confidence.

Clinic doesn’t generate ideas; it generates cool combinations and atmosphere. Thus, it has logged nearly a decade of activity without being subject to significantly diminishing returns. Its mix is as campy and affecting as ever. And on Do It! the band catches a new burst of energy. Barely exceeding a half-hour, Do It! moves at a quick clip with rare poise, and blends a wide range of elements without ever losing its balance, and avoids the lackadaisical cynicism that dogged the last couple of records. Clinic isn’t going anyplace new, but it’s been awhile since it had this much fun doing what it does.

“Tomorrow” takes it back to the Stones’ folk dalliances, and “Shopping Bag” is neo-proto-punk plain and simple, but nothing else on Do It! can be so easily categorized. “Corpus Christi” rides a steady Can rhythm through rich beachfront party rock and detailed tropical flourishes – it’s as mysterious and fertile as its characteristically open-ended lyrics. “High Coin” plays around with tango, with results both humble and exhilarating. “Mary and Eddie” coaxes a waltz into a wall of electronic dissonance.

As with Clinic at large, Do It! is pompous, adventurous and cool. It’s nothing new and it’s nothing scary, but its renewed vigor is encouraging. Aside from the Nuggets boxes, it’s as good a starting point as any.

By Emerson Dameron

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