Clinic, a nervous quartet from Liverpool, England, plays excellent organ-based garage rock clad in gimmicky surgical uniforms, complete with masks. Singer/guitarist Ade Blackburn, keyboardist/guitarist Hartley, bassist Brian Campbell and drummer Carl Turney formed Clinic in 1997 after Blackburn’s and Hartley’s previous project, the discordant Pure Morning, split. Blackburn’s trembling tenor plays prominently in Clinic’s taut tunes, yet the group’s greatest strength is its rhythm section, propelled by Turney’s frantic limbs and a tolerable infusion of percussive elements.
Clinic compiles the band’s first three EPs, originally released in the UK on the band’s Aladdin’s Cave of Golf label. The first EP’s “I.P.C. Subeditors Dictate Our Youth” is a minimal burst of fuzzed-out organ riffs and harmonic flourishes, while the hypnotic “Porno” is Clinic at its peak, with loping rhythms, nonsensical lyrics and an abrupt burst of static midway through. The collection mines similar minimalist territory in “DT,” “Monkey on Your Back” and “Cement Mixer” to excellent effect.
The full-length debut, Internal Wrangler, keeps Clinic’s strengths intact while the group profitably explores new terrain, such as the ballads “Earth Angel,” “Goodnight Georgie” and “Distortions,” in which Blackburn croons, “I picture you in coffins/My baby in her coffin.” Coupled with the eerie organ tones, it’s enough to spark a palpable chill. “The Return of Evil Bill” is up-tempo, pensive pop, while Turney’s kick drum stomps and Hartley’s possessed keys make “2/4” manically disorienting.
Clinic revisits old ground on the disappointing Walking With Thee. Burgeoning song lengths expose weak melodies and a waning interest in rhythmic ambition. It’s still the Clinic sound, only it’s been diluted. The band finds catchy grooves on “The Equaliser,” “Welcome” and “Sunlight Bathes Our Home,” layering contrasting beats atop one another, but the bulk of the album is stumbling mid-tempo numbers. If this is Clinic’s idea of respectability, it’s rather dull.