November 12, 2010
7th St. Entry, Minneapolis
Friday night at the 7th St. Entry, Liverpool natives Clinic brought their odd brand of -- well, there are no clear reference points for Clinic's sound, really, and for that they should be applauded.
[jump] It's like art punk made by Elbow or like the Pixies being covered by the Velvet Underground, maybe. The fact that those descriptions are at the same time both sort of true and also almost comically off the mark are the blessing and the curse for Clinic. They sound like nothing else, but at the same time, up until their latest release, Bubblegum, it seemed like the band may have put themselves in too small of a box. There was a possibility that, by virtue of the incredibly distinct sound they had nurtured, there would be very little growth available to them. Thankfully, with Bubblegum, this has proved not to be the case.
Dressed in their usual surgical masks and scrubs with dashiki designs, Clinic did a slow-burn through their set, which consisted of songs from nearly every one of their releases. This was unexpected since their newer work is just as great as the older stuff and there is more than enough there to fill a set list, but it was a great reminder of just how powerful the band has been since the beginning. "Porno" from their 1997 EP I.P.C. Subeditors Dictate Our Youth and "Pet Eunuch" from 2002's Walking With Thee fit in seamlessly aside songs like "Corpus Christi" from 2008's Do It!, with Ade Blackburn's acidic vocals sounding even more otherworldly live than they do on record.
The caustic, jagged guitar riffs, copious use of the melodica (a small, hand-held organ which is operated by blowing into it) and frightening amount of cymbal crashes added to the gleefully sinister aesthetic Clinic put forth from the stage, an aesthetic that was somehow even more creepy when the subject matter of the songs turned to real human issues like love and death instead of paranoia and general brooding. That may sound like a knock, but it's what draws people to this band, it seems.
The band draws from disparate genres (folk, punk, garage) and bends those genres to their will, creating a sound that is immediately recognizable; a sound that, in this era of bands sounding like an amalgam of several others, is almost wholly new. It's as addictive as it is harsh and as the band wrapped up their roughly hour-long set, the crowd was more deflated that it was over than any I have ever seen.
It's another blessing/curse for Clinic: they (unbelievably, really) haven't caught on stateside on a large scale, but the fans they do have are maniacal and luckily for them the numbers seem to be growing. While the Entry is a fun, intimate venue, it was uncomfortably crowded Friday. Everyone jostled and nudged and squeezed past to get as close to the stage as they could. It's always a treat for the fans to be able to get mere inches from the band, but after all this time Clinic might be deserving of a shot in First Avenue's Mainroom.
Critic's Bias: This was my fourth attempt at seeing Clinic live, something prevented me from going each previous time and I worried all week that something was going to happen this time, too.
The Crowd: Drunk and more pushy than usual, the impending snowstorm was making people a little edgy, maybe.
Overheard In The Crowd: "The patchouli smell in this joint...hippies at a Clinic show?"
Random Notebook Dump: "I do not get why this band is still playing the Entry."
For more photos: See our full slideshow by Tony Nelson.