A band forever masked, in some deranged coalition of worlds, Clinic (at least in a physical sense) were perhaps born for these times. A band always absorbed in contradictions, they keep on coming on Fantasy Island – Clinic’s latest offering.
Notwithstanding Fantasy Island’s cover art – the kind (for the most part) boasting an imagery many of us have dreamed of during the pandemic, Ade Blackburn continues to roll out those icy premonitions that have made Clinic’s music so cold and, at times, as impenetrable as a block of ice.
Clinic’s 2019 effort, Wheeltappers and Shunter, wasn’t the return form that many at the time claimed it to be. Rushing in at 27 minutes, if anything it was more of a celebration that Clinic were still around churning out new music. And that’s what it was; a churning out of something new and little else.
Where return to forms are concerned, however, Fantasy Island is just that. Moody and immersed in dark colours that swirl around in the world of surrealism, in truth Fantasy Island comprises of the very ideas that have always been the bedrock of Clinic.
Some call it odd-ball, but musically it’s no different to scratching the surface of a one of Haruki Murakami’s characters. Forever shackled by riddles and bound by mystery (On the Other Side…).
Opening song, The Lamplighter, isn’t anything new in the world of Clinic but it doesn’t need to be, showcasing a band refining their art, and the result is grandiose without really trying to be. Again, those wicked contradictions that Blackburn has always dealt heavy in.
Fine Dining was probably inspired by rocking up to the London Carriage Works tripping on acid. And speaking of chemically enhanced dreams, Feelings and closing track, the aptly titled Grande Finale, are the kind of songs that are akin to swimming in a pool of fruit punch laced with Ketamine.
On Take A Chance, Blackburn dispenses the kind of melody that transcends the best parts of Free Reign. Later, he gets his sing-speak on with Refractions (In the Rain). Combining a ’70s-inspired narration born out of some dream living cottage down south with a disjointed disco rock stomp, it’s almost beyond absurd and most certainly would be had Clinic not written it.
It’s another example of Clinic making the kooky sound coherent and palatable. It’s the band’s greatest shtick.
The “electro-rockabilly shebang” referenced in the band’s press releases comes to life during the title track; a thorny post-punk sprawl with those pulsating rhythms that Clinic have made their own since day dot.
I Can’t Stand the Rain sounds like the bastardisation of some middle class hippy in a field strumming a guitar, or, indeed, a rugged version of something The Kinks fucked around with in the studio. Following on from the imagery of Wheeltappers and Shunter, Clinic weaponize the idea of quaint living with showers of scorn. No other band from Liverpool could do this with such aplomb.
Fantasy Island sees Clinic being, well… very much Clinic. The difference is that Blackburn and Co. seem to have a new lease of life. A new verve.
While Wheeltappers and Shunter may have hinted at such things, Fantasy Island confirms that this isn’t a band seeing out their halcyon days. While it’s too early to call it a new dawn, it’s certainly an exciting new chapter for Clinic, and we’re excited for what comes next.
Fantasy Island is out on Friday via Domino Recording Co. Purchase from Bandcamp.