To mark their 10-year anniversary, Liverpool quartet Clinic have turned to their back catalogue and pulled together twelve B-sides and rarities, satisfying in part the demand of their loyal fan base. In the course of that ten years the band have secured something of a niche for themselves, an instantly recognisable sound that has given them high critical acclaim, if not commercial success.
This briefly beckoned with the 2002 single Walking With Thee, though any first time visitor to a Clinic gig would see immediately how fame would not suit them. Ten years of performing in top hats and surgical masks indicates a desire to keep their identities under wraps, if not their blistering, distorted music.
This cultivated sound remains, characterised by a wall of guitar sound dressed liberally with white noise, while singer Ade Blackburn tops the mix, either through his clenched teeth vocals or eerie autoharp. Funf reaffirms that sound as their trademark in its fractured compilation of songs and utterances, while mostly keeping the quality threshold maintained in their five albums for Domino.
While they resist categorisation, Clinic’s powerful songs feature lyrics that are easily recalled. The haunting Christmas hints at something of a pastoral air and briefly tones down the guitars for Blackburn to sing of “going to market just to sell your share”. It’s an example of an other-worldly Englishness that surfaces from time to time, returning in the melody of Dissolution; The Dream Of Bartholomew, which is based on a traditional tune.
Live favourite J.O./Love Is Just A Tool makes a welcome appearance towards the end, its opening collision between solemn organ lines and loping bass groove slowly oscillating beneath Blackburn’s disembodied, reverberant vocal.
But it wouldn’t be a Clinic record with a few out and out gunslingers, and The Castle and Circle I satisfy the psychedelic tendencies. Just as before their songs are dispatched with the minimum of fuss, the whole collection over in under half an hour. They’re never a band to pad out what can be said in a short statement.
Unfortunately for completists, this won’t be the record that fills all the holes in their collections, as at least five B-sides are missing – a shame when the record falls on the short side. However in this half hour the band’s intensity remains, their music vivid and profound in its communication.