November 8, 2001

Ed's Underground

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The British band Clinic made quite an impression with their debut full-length Internal Wrangler, which was available for over a year in the UK before its recent US release. Unfortunately, their self-titled singles collection, released in the UK in 1999, is still unavailable domestically — though it’s definitely worth the import price.

Clinic’s unique style is a punky synthesis of the Velvet Underground, Radiohead, art-rock distortion, and 80s new wave. Singer Ade Blackburn is the band’s most distinctive element, sounding like Thom Yorke thrown into a dryer. He moans, slurs, and screams the incomprehensible lyrics, making them just another part of the mix. Only the slightest fragments of words leap out of the frantic whirlwind — like the repeated lament, “Sex/ I’m bored, I’m bored, I’m bored” from “Porno.”

“I.P.C. Subeditors Dictate Our Youth” starts the compilation with a raucous stomp reminiscent of early Violent Femmes. The song introduces the band’s trademark sound: repetitive, circular rhythms banging away beneath swirling keyboards to create dense punk rock.

The brief “D.P.” is another standout, with abrasive guitars and Blackburn’s squeals leading into a tranquil acoustic outro. “D.T.” is another short, punky song, channeling the distorted snarl of Raw Power-era Stooges, the out-of-control guitars contrasting with the tinkling bells in the background.

The production on Clinic may be rough, but the songwriting is strong, and the band, even at this early stage in their career, already had a grasp on using details to enrich their sound. Background vocals, guitar distorted to sound like record scratching, and layers of percussion run through every one of these nine tracks. Clinic captures a band on the verge of greatness, proving that their unique style was defined at an early age.

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