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Clinic: Show Preview 

Wednesday, Nov 17 2010

"Dig e dig e/me no me no," Clinic vocalist Abe Blackburn babbles in "The Second Line." His infantile gobbledygook is crucial to fully understanding the Clinic aesthetic. The Liverpudlian outfit engages listeners on its own terms and on their own turf, confident that no matter how opaque and strange its world is, we'll want to visit. Its best songs come with welcome mats: Wipe your feet, step inside, lose yourself. The band's oeuvre (six albums deep now) is certainly labyrinthine, paying homage to hip-hop, Krautrock, punk, psychedelia, and even Phil Spector. Singing through gritted teeth, Blackburn's delivery is bloodless — his words cryptic, a tangled mass of imagery that's both familiar and frightening. "Mother melted in the fridge," he bleats in "Jigsaw Man." We're left to ponder whether he's repulsed or despondent. Or maybe just hungry. Recent release Bubblegum features fewer menacing drones and driving rhythms than earlier work. On "I'm Aware," "Baby," and "Linda," caressing string arrangements snuggle against strummed acoustic guitar. The shift is not out of character (hear the gentle lament "Distortions," from 2000's Internal Wrangler), but leaves the quartet sounding depthless. Clinic is more compelling when it's complicated.

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Ryan Foley

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