Album Reviews

Clinic – Free Reign

(Domino) UK release date: 12 November 2012


Clinic’s latest album, their seventh since forming and a full 15 years after their first release, is available in a limited edition ‘ufo’ format. In a subtle hint at the spaced out, psychedelic sound of the record, it can be purchased as a glow in the dark, ‘cosmic flying disk’ which also includes the download code for the music, giving the buyer both a Frisbee and a Clinic album for their hard earned cash.

Whilst it’s not likely that the streets of Clinic’s home town of Liverpool will be filled with fans tossing cosmic disks to each other anytime soon, Free Reign will serve as a welcome addition to the music collection of anyone who has enjoyed Clinic over the last decade and a half. It is an album that maintains their hypnotic and mesmerising new wave meets art-punk aesthetic whilst keeping things decidedly trippy and true to Clinic’s usual form, and has a unique feel that runs throughout that refuses to keep every song to the usual structures.

Free Reign veers from the obvious to the out there in equal measure. Opening track Misty is driven along by a drum loop and delayed guitar notes, Ade Blackburn’s vocal giving it a slow burning, Velvet Underground feel. It’s conventional Clinic, but with a more drug addled trippy sound. Blackburn picks this up again on Seamless Boogie Woogie BBC2 10pm (rpt), which is borderline catchy and upbeat but this time with an ’80s new wave influence.

Likewise, single Miss You is relatively sinister with its sleazy beat and breathy vocals, but it is a far cry from some of the more elaborate and psychedelic tracks on Free Reign. You, which along with Miss You, produced by Daniel Lopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never, is the trippiest song on Free Reign – the percussion makes it almost plod along but with such a huge slice of atmospherics that as Blackburn tells us “I want you now, I want you so”, causing a tingle on the back of your neck.

Things do take a more otherworldly turn. See Saw is built on a squelchy bass, scuzzy guitar riff and Blackburn’s lyrics at their opaque best. It breaks down before ending on a crescendo and has a chorus that allows Blackburn to channel his inner Mark E Smith. Cosmic Radiation takes things one notch further, beginning with wah wah guitar and horn. It’s a slice of acid jazz funk straight from The Mighty Boosh cutting floor.

King Kong sees the drum machine out again for a progressive electronic mash up of a track that is as schizophrenic as it is unsettling whilst Sun And Moon, which closes Free Reign, is the sound of musicians writing and performing through an induced haze. It shuffles along, broken by the occasional horn stab and mumbled vocal.

Free Reign is not an album which will surprise Clinic fans, or anyone that has come across the band in their career so far. It contains the essence of their sound, but also their talent for partly reinventing on each new release. Glow in the dark ‘cosmic disks’ aside, its sits nicely alongside the work of a band which have always been intriguing to listen to and, whilst it’s unlikely to win over many new fans, it will certainly keep those who have been with the band so far content.


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