Post-punk revival, Garage rock, Neo-psychedelia, Noise rock
Clinic are a Liverpool based post-punk revival/ noise rock band noted for their often fast-paced, eclectic sound. Their sound is often distinguished by the prominent use of vintage keyboards/organs, most notably the Philips Philicorda, and peculiar off-scale chord progressions.
Formation and early recordings
Vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Ade Blackburn (born Adrian Everett Blackburn, Liverpool), and lead guitarist, Hartley (born Jonathan Christopher Hartley, Liverpool), formed the earliest incarnation of the band around 1984, initially known as Sunny Rainy Afterlife and offering home-made demo cassettes through a local free circulation magazine. By the late eighties, the band had renamed itself Jellystone Park, with Ade and Hartley joined by drummer Steve 'Captain' Dougherty, who later went on to join Creation signings, One Lady Owner, and bassist Derek Finn, a local music teacher. Following a brief hiatus, and a one-off appearance by Blackburn and Hartley in a covers act, Sean Durney's L-Ego, supporting the post- A Flock of Seagulls combo, An Almighty Atmosphere, Dougherty was replaced in 1988 by Sean Durney, previously drummer with Stein, an acoustic agit-pop outfit also part of a mini-scene centred on the Birkey  pub in Crosby, Liverpool. The band by this time was based in a former storage room at the Regent Bingo Hall in Crosby (now St Mary's College Sports Centre), where Blackburn was a bingo caller. Finn departed and was replaced for a short period by Paul Entwhistle, also of Liverpool band, Spontaneous Cattle Combustion. Entwhistle was subsequently replaced by Brian Campbell (born Brian Campbell, Liverpool) after Durney spotted him playing in a band at The Crosby Squash Club. The band recorded two demos in 1991, both being released by Museum Records under the guise of Jellystone Park  in 2011, and The Dark Side of the Birkey  in 2012, along with a flexi-disc in 1992. Durney also departed in 1993, being replaced on the drum stool by Carl Turney (born Carl Brian Turney, Widnes), an associate of Campbell, and the band renamed itself Pure Morning, recording an album, Two Inch Helium Buddah, for Radar Records in 1996.
With the line up unchanged, the band again renamed itself, to Clinic, the following year and soon developed early notoriety for featuring instruments (primarily keyboards/organs) that were acquired at various jumble sales and flea markets. Shortly after, the EP I.P.C. Subeditors Dictate Our Youth was released on their own Aladdin's Cave of Golf record label. The EP made the top ten of John Peel's Festive Fifty at the end of the year, and two other self-financed singles followed in 1998.
Signing to Domino Records
In 1999, the band signed to Domino Records and the first three singles were compiled on a single CD or LP. Their debut album, Internal Wrangler, was released in 2000. Album tracks "The Second Line", "The Return of Evil Bill" and "Distortions" were released as singles - "The Second Line" was later used in a television advertisement for Levi's jeans, and reissued. In the same year, the band played at All Tomorrow's Parties and Scott Walker's Meltdown and toured with Radiohead. Internal Wrangler was voted Number 5 in Pitchfork's best albums of the year.
Two further albums, Walking with Thee (which was nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative Album) and Winchester Cathedral, followed in 2002 and 2004 respectively along with tours with The Flaming Lips and an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, performing "Walking with Thee". "Come into Our Room", the second single from Walking with Thee, was featured on an episode of "The OC" as well as an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and was included on the series' soundtrack album. Also from the album, "The Equaliser" was featured in the 2003 indie film Thirteen. The band released their fourth album, Visitations, in October 2006. "Tusk", the first single from the album, was made available as a free download from the band's official website in February 2006, and "Harvest (Within You)" preceded the album in early October.
Funf, a compilation album of b-sides, was released in June 2007. Clinic also appeared with Roky Erickson at Jarvis Cocker's 2007 Meltdown Festival and later in the year toured with Arcade Fire. "If You Could Read Your Mind" from Visitations was used in the arthouse film Hallam Foe the same autumn.
2008 saw the release of the uncharacteristically mellow single "Free Not Free", preceding their fifth album Do It!. The single was released as a free download from the band's website. The download also contained the B-side, "Thor". The band later released "The Witch (Made to Measure)" as the second single from the album, and "Tomorrow" as the third. After touring to promote the album, in May 2009 Clinic played the Moondog tribute concert at the Barbican in London, performing 'Oboe Round'.
The band's sixth album, Bubblegum, produced by John Congleton was released on 4 October 2010. A press release stated that the album was a marked change in direction from their trademark "hyped-up sound". The acoustic-based lead single from the album, "I'm Aware", was released on 20 September 2010, and a second single, the titular wah-led "Bubblegum", came out on 31 January 2011.
In 2012 came the album Free Reign I & Free Reign II. Produced by the band themselves in their hometown of Liverpool and mixed with the assistance of Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never), Free Reign is an extremely apt title for a particularly bold and assured new transmission from planet Clinic. In the fifteen years since the release of the irrepressible band's debut EP, Ade Blackburn and co. have essentially delivered an exquisite master-class in fearless singularity - consistently and steadfastly pushing the frontiers of their perfectly-defined, next-dimension pop trips on their own trajectory over the course of six, and now seven, confoundingly magnificent albums.
A Grammy nomination, performance on The David Letterman Show, high profile tours with fans such as The Flaming Lips, Radiohead and Arcade Fire and a lot of reverence from notable artists - both established and emergent - over the years have seen Clinic flirt with the mainstream and be cemented into cult firmament alike, without ever really courting either acceptance directly. Their craft, one that has always bloomed in isolation and seemed impervious to the fickle tide of trend or fad, remains both resolutely eclectic and acutely focused. The junkshop-trawling analogue fetishism of the warm, smokey instrumentation that gives their songs such a vividly placeable sense of mood and atmosphere; the surrealist bent of Blackburn's lyrics - so steeped in their own personal mythology - and the band's over-riding commitment to never straying into the realm of the obvious or complacent are all long-standing elements of Clinic's work that are furthered, perfected even, on Free Reign.
Free Reign's predecessor - the wistful, bittersweet Bubblegum - saw the band welcoming an outsider, Dallas-based producer John Congleton into their fold for the first time and as such marked a subtle but not insignificant step away from the mutated strand of post-punk that had up to that point been the band's calling card. Under Congleton's influence, the frenetic, breakneck pace of the band's usual predilection slowed a little, songs stretched out into more exploratory territory and drew from a richer, warmer palette of sounds that emphasized a new, more classically songwriter-led approach to composition perfectly. It was a record that still had marks of the murky, subterranean energy of Clinic but one that had, in Blackburn's words at the time, "mellowed" somewhat.
So, what next? A less restlessly, creatively contrary entity than Clinic at this point in their career might be content to put their feet up; continue smoothing off those rough edges, replicate Bubblegum’s comparatively easy charms and settle down for good. Of course, that is not the case here. Recorded in vintage Clinic style without outside interference in the band’s Liverpool bolthole, Free Reign neither turns its back on the direction of Bubblegum, nor seeks to revisit it verbatim, instead incorporating the simple, childlike melodies and spacious nature of the former whilst at the same time being as powerful, visceral and rhythmically charged as anything the band have ever recorded.
The freakish gospel crawl of opening song ‘Misty’ sets the bar high right from the off; Blackburn's familiar acidic incantations casting him as a kind of extra-terrestrial preacher amidst a storm of hissing electronic interference, motorik drums and almost abrasively loud, warped vintage organ wobble. When juxtaposed with the harshness of the noise upon which it floats the playful, naïve nature of the vocal melody rings like some sort of post-apocalyptic lullaby for the world itself - the disarmingly gentle proclamation of "Misty, we've won" becoming almost foreboding. It's an enigmatic, potently evocative introduction to the record and in many ways is classic Clinic - shining the spirit of vintage songwriting through their own foggy prism until it takes on strange, spooked new shapes - and yet it feels more fierce and stark now than perhaps ever before.
“We enjoyed making Bubblegum and experimenting with some more laid-back song structures and sounds but it wasn’t interesting to us to try and do that again. We thought it’d be fun to gravitate towards a sound that was louder and rawer whilst keeping the emphasis on songwriting. Making the record ourselves again, in a very DIY fashion allowed us to have that feel”, explains Blackburn. “We wanted to evoke the energy that our early more post-punk stuff had but without relying on the guitars to carry that. And so on this record, all the noise and abrasion comes from the drum machines and keys instead, that was something new for us.”
The result of this process is a record that manages to marry together a typically eclectic and diffuse set of aesthetic touch points within a unified sense of nervous energy. ‘Miss You’ is an extremely off-kilter slow jam with a unsettlingly twisted funk riff that creeps along obsessively like a heavily medicated Invaders, the damaged waves of interference and ghostly effects that cut through the mix making the titular refrain sound as dark as it is romantic.
The very appropriately titled, hypnotic jazz freak-out ‘Cosmic Radiation’, meanwhile, sounds like The Fall playing on a Sun Ra or Charles Mingus number; a seriously sickly-sounding clarinet pushing the red as the whole thing jitters along in a way that suggests imminent spontaneous combustion. Slow builder ‘You’ starts by sampling schoolyard chatter dissipating into white noise and proceeds to unfold into a sprawling drug-dub with a blasted baggy swing and ‘Boney M’ summons the proto space rock spirit of Hawkwind and puts it in fifth gear, Blackburn barking a reverb-heavy sermon from within the maelstrom. Only the lethargically blissful ‘Seasons’ really takes the pedal off the metal, but with its frayed church organ and hissing, scattershot beat, even that has an intensity to go alongside its gentle, inebriated sensuality.
The band released an EP of cover versions, "Ladies Night", in support of Record Store Day, on 16 April 2011; the main track was a version of Man 2 Man's 'Male Stripper'. In March 2012 the band were invited to support The Shins at the Forum in Kentish Town. They performed the new song 'Seamless boogie woogie rpt BBC2 10pm'. In April 2012, the song 'D.P.' from the band's debut EP was used in a TV advertisement for Weetabix breakfast cereal.
Blackburn's distinctive acidic vocals are a trademark of the band, and they are also known for wearing surgical masks and costumes while performing, as well as in promotional photos. The band are known to wear different costumes depending on the circumstances of the show: for example, an outdoors show would have them in Hawaiian shirts, while indoor shows would have them in their trademark scrubs. During an interview, Blackburn reveals the sound of the album the band are promoting while touring has an effect on their attire while performing.
Ade Blackburn has said in an interview that Clinic wear surgical masks on stage as a homage to San Francisco bands Crime and The Residents. "...I like the way there was a visual side to what they did, but it wasn't something too serious. It was like a tacky pun on the band name. I liked something a bit more ridiculous like that." .
- Adrian 'Ade' Blackburn – vocals, guitar, keyboards, melodica (1984- )
- Brian Campbell – bass guitar, flute, backing vocals (1990- )
- Jonathan 'Hartley' Hartley – guitar, keyboards, clarinet (1984- )
- Carl Turney – drums, piano, backing vocals (1993- )
- Steve 'Captain' Dougherty - drums (1984-1988)
- Sean Durney - drums (1988-1993)
- Paul Entwhistle - bass guitar (1989-1990)
- Derek Finn bass guitar (1984-1989)
As Pure Morning-
- Two Inch Helium Buddah (Radar Records, 1996)
- Internal Wrangler (2000) No. 142 UK
- Walking with Thee (2002) No. 133 UK
- Winchester Cathedral (2004)
- Visitations (2006)
- Do It! (2008)
- Bubblegum (2010)
- Free Reign (2012)
- Clinic 3EP's (1999)
- Operating at a Theatre Near You Vol. 1 (2004)
- Ladies Night (2011)
- "I.P.C. Subeditors Dictate Our Youth" (1997)
- "Monkey on Your Back" (1998)
- "Cement Mixer" (1998)
- "The Second Line" (1999) No. 112 UK
- "The Return of Evil Bill" (2000) No. 70 UK
- "Distortions" (2000) No. 81 UK
- "The Second Line" (re-release) (2000) No. 56 UK
- "Walking with Thee" (2002) No. 65 UK
- "Come into Our Room" (2002) No. 85 UK
- "The Magician" (2004) No. 77 UK
- "Circle of Fifths" (2004) No. 89 UK
- "Tusk" (2006)
- "Harvest (Within You)" (2006) No. 137 UK
- "If You Could Read Your Mind" (2007)
- "Free Not Free" (2008) Video
- "The Witch (Made to Measure)" (2008)
- "Tomorrow" (2008)
- "I'm Aware" (2010)
- "Bubblegum" (2011)
- "Miss You" (2012)
- "Domino | Albums | Bubblegum". Dominorecordco.com. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
- "Domino | Singles | I'm Aware". Dominorecordco.com. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
- "Domino | News | Free download of a remix of 'Bubblegum' by Clinic". Dominorecordco.com. 2011-01-31. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
- "Clinic - Ladies Night". Clinicvoot.org. 2011-04-16. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
- "First 2012 Live Dates Confirmed". clinicvoot.org. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
- "Weetabix Golden Syrup: Dad's Day Out". tvadmusic.com. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
- Ade Blackburn Interview with L.A. Record
- http://zobbel.de/ Click "Chart Log UK", and then "C" to find Clinic's chart positions
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 111. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.