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Clinic Bubblegum
Released 1 October 2010
Producer John Congleton
Label Domino
Length 39:53
Genre Alternative rock
Website www.clinicvoot.org

Misfits and degenerates. That’s how Ade Blackburn from Clinic has in the past characterised those to whom he feels his band’s skewed garage psychedelia appeals. And while degeneracy is never too far from the surface on Clinic’s sixth album, there is a very real feeling that ten years into a career that has seen them build up a strong cult following on both sides of the Atlantic, this Liverpudlian four piece have self consciously opted for a more measured, almost mellow outlook, with moments of string-drenched beauty adding to rather than diminishing the band’s edgy, off-kilter melodies.

The tension between melodic grandiosity and lo-fi authenticity is felt throughout Bubblegum (the title an apt example of the band’s innate sense of the absurd: this is anything but your typical sugary pop record), no more so than in the album opener and lead single 'I’m Aware', a luscious orchestral ballad...sung through gritted teeth. Clinic time and again show their ability to write pop hooks, and the stripped down production values bring out the pop sensibilities of the band, but there always lurks in the background a darker edge, as if they are afraid of letting themselves (or their fans) get too comfortable.

As a result, we get the snarling garage stomp of 'Lion Tamer' countered by 'Un Astronauta En Cielo', a haunting pastoral soundscape, while the trippy space rock of 'Evelyn' is countered by 'Milk and Honey', which is almost anthemic in its widescreen sound. Throughout the thirteen tracks the Scouse rockers seem content to toy with the listener: there are dark surprises around every corner, making it an intriguing, if challenging listen. The pacing doesn’t really help matters: the second half is vastly stronger, more confident, and altogether more coherent than the opening tracks, which don’t exactly draw the listener in.

All in all it’s a wild melting pot of styles and influences, but the real difficulty is in drawing it all together to form a cohesive album, a challenge that Clinic rise to in parts, but there is a sense that they are unwilling to commit fully to the new, more sophisticated direction their sound is heading. The sum total is an album that has many highlights, but is frustratingly inconsistent.

- Ken O’Meara