Clinic – Internal Wrangler (2000)

Clinic come from Liverpool. Clinic wear surgical masks. Clinic sounds like Clinic. No one else sounds like Clinic.
This is their debut album and in the space of 31 minutes they pack more ideas than most bands use in a career, tearing tear music up and putting it back together again in grotesque shapes you thought impossible.
Keyboards and melodica are to the fore but the real star is the vocals. Ade Blackurn’s delivery is a truly unique weapon of rock n roll.

‘Voodoo Wop’ sets the ball running with evil percussion and queasy keyboards that calms down into a sangria-by-the-beach swell. Acting mainly as intro music it sets out Clinic’s stall. Weird and unsettling and funny all in one go.
‘The Return Of Evil Bill’ is punishing, grinding and garrulous. The first sense we have of Ade Blackburn’s sinister nonsense speak (‘Self help for the farm’?, ‘The billboard wars’?). Pushed along at a pace that isn’t natural (apart from when it slows to a nursery rhyme falter) it’s classic Clinic.


‘Internal Wrangler’ sounds vaguely garage rock, like Inspiral Carpets with indigestion, except of course that Clinic don’t sound like Inspiral Carpets, or anyone. Parping and stinging, surf meets garage meets the Joe 90 theme.
‘DJ Shangri La’ another mood piece as funeral keys meet squalling seagulls.
‘The Second Line’, in which plodding bass underpins amazingly nonsensical lyrics with a breathless “tssked” backing harmony. Fantastically catchy with a wonderful child like joy.
‘CQ’ is fast and stuttering that sounds like a punk reduction that Wire only dreamt about.
‘TK’ sees another melodica heavy song. It almost sounds like the theme tune to a disturbing late night sitcom.
‘Earth Angel’ is the first sight of slower Clinic with teasing, cajoling vocals (‘Martha the snitch’?) backed by minimal instrumentation and lapping ocean sounds. A haunting, creepy ballad about… something.
‘Distortion’ continues the slower, tender theme as slow caressing keys and luscious bass weave around Ade’s reptilian croon. Some of his best lyrics are in this song: “I want to know my body / I want this out not in me” what on Earth does this mean? Personally I think it’s along the lines of Gang Of Four’s ‘Anthrax’, seeing love as a disease? Or a hymn to self loathing that would Morrissey balk at? It is sung with such skill, encompassing fear, fright, love and pleading to be a world of complexity and confusion.
‘Hippy Death Suite’ does what it says on the tin as the pace is ramped up to a blitzkrieg as surf guitar goes nuclear.
‘2nd Foot Stomp’ another catchy pop hit (from the planet ruled by Brian Eno that is) with a breathless melody.
‘39905’ sees a pace so fast it sounds like the heartbeat of a hummingbird having a panic attack. Like an out of control fairground ride it careers for 3 minutes leaving you feel nauseous.
‘Goodnight Georgie’ is a surprisingly gorgeous lullaby.

Dazzlingly inventive. constantly surprising, sporadically childlike, occasionally threatening.
Only in listening to it now have I noticed the heavy use of Beach Boys style vocal harmonies. I think this is what lends the album it’s childlike joy. There is a sense of exploration here and the thrill of hearing music unlike anything you have ever heard is enervating.
Another thing that struck me how minimal is the instruments are on many songs but you only notice if you actually examine the component parts. The vocals carry much of the work, with the songs taking shape around the meaningless words.
Half kids show theme tunes and half music from horror movies; half gorgeous, half sinister. Profoundly weird, disturbing, avant-garde, accessible, catchy, fun, silly, aggressive. Clinic are ridiculous. Clinic are genius. Clinic deserve medals. Clinic need help. Clinic should pack arenas. Clinic should be sectioned.

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One thought on “Clinic – Internal Wrangler (2000)

  1. Pingback: Clinic – Free Reign II (2013) | colourhorizon

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