Clinic – Free Reign II (2013)

Apparently Free Reign II is the Liverpool band’s 7 and 1/2 album. Thanks to internet reseach I believe the story goes they asked Daniel Lopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never (cheers google) to mix the album, then shelved the results and released their own mix. Then released this original version, with all the tracks renamed as ‘… II’, the tracklist reversed and a bonus track on the end. I have not heard the original as I went straight to this one as was intrigued by the premise.

Free Reign II is certainly more psychedelic than other Clinic releases and it is a style that suits them. This mix has a LOT going on in the background, the production on the album is incredibly rich and layered. Full of strange noises and effects, this is a throbbing, pulsating, unnerving album. Even by Clinic standards this is a creepy and claustrophobic album. It almost sounds like Clinic’s subconscious. That isnt to say Free Reign II is downbeat, it also has a propulsive backbone and the . Nervous energy is still energy, right?
Ade Blackburn is in great voice too, his childlike neurosis never sounded more at home.

A lot of thoughts swirl into my head about what this album sounds like – Throbbing Gristle, Echo & The Bunnymen, Radiophonic Workshop, The Kinks, The Cure, Bowie’s Berlin phase, Public Image are all touchstones that suggested themselves, but as always, Clinic are one of the few truly unique bands.

The first 4 tracks are rather slow and eerie, when “Miss You II” arrives at track 4 it is like a breath of fresh air in the wardrobe you’re locked in, making paranoia sound downright fun. Free Reign II opens itself up as you journey through it. All of a sudden ‘Seamless Boogie Woogie. BBC2 10PM (rpt)’ arrives like the star guest at a party: preening, attractive and demanding your attention. It deserves it too, carefully moving its way through the room enticing all under its spell. Surely this Clinic in micro-cosm; urgent and laconic, dangerous and mischievous, subversive yet playful. ‘See Saw II’ sees stomping battlefield drums with guitars sharp enough to cut diamond. ‘Misty II’ returns to the slower, brooding manner in which the album opened.
Bonus tracks ‘Done and Dusted II’ is a slice of robotic pop that is so unlike the album it only highlights the difference in Clinic’s new style.

Having not heard the original I cannot really compare both albums but the production on this album is excellent and has brought Clinic to a darker but highly intruiging place. A brave and adventurous album well worth checking out by Clinic fans.

SEARCH IT: Clinic, ‘Seemless Boogie Woogie, BBC2 10PM (rpt)’

See also: my Lost Gems feature on Clinic’s debut album Internal Wrangler


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