(Domino Records, out Fri 10 May 2019)
In common with Damon Albarn on Merrie Land, Clinic have taken Brexit fever/panic as a cue to plunder a forgotten England, one growing cobwebbed in the corners of the mind of anyone over 40. The front cover is a yellowing picture of a thatched Merrie England cottage (very Unhalfbricking), the title a reference to the Bernard Manning-fronted 70s variety show which back then was harmless fun for the working man and ‘er indoors and is now tantamount to a televisual hate crime. Thrown in to the mix is a town crier, some sort of Pathé-esque jingle (the outro to Laughing Cavalier) and a mechanical typewriter. As Ade Blackburn sings on Complex, it’s “new antiquated, silver-plated, the good old days, the good old ways.”
At least, that’s the underlying warped nostalgic schtick of it. Sonically, it’s the cosmic garage rock Clinic some of us know and love and others of us think is a messy, tuneless racket. Most of this could slip unnoticed onto any Clinic album of the past fifteen years.
Interest is sustained by the sonic quirks, whether it’s the sinisterly deadpan “ha ha ha, ho ho ho” on Laughing Cavalier, the discordant zither on the chorus of Rubber Bullets, or the way most of the instruments keep dropping out on Ferryboat of The Mind.
The town crier that sees out Be Yourself/Year of the Sadist is the most ear-catching moment. Paying homage from the “town criers of Grrrreat Brrrritain” to the “fearless astronauts” (presumably of the moon-landings), it’s spooky in the same way the disembodied voices on Dark Side of The Moon or the old man on Gavin Bryars’ Jesus Blood Never Saved Me Yet is spooky – very human but seemingly coming at us from the Other Side. It’s crying out to segue into something more avant-garde than the fairly standard Clinic fare that is Congratulations. The stop-start, loud-soft antics of the typewriter-backed New Equations (at the Copacabana) are more like it. Barry Manilow it ain’t.
Seven years is a long wait for a mere 28 minutes of music. Tiger is 35 seconds of wittering about the circus. D.I.S.C.I.P.L.E. is a frantic one minute of mainly “Wednesday was a shit day!” The best bits were used up on the pre-release singles, the aforementioned Laughing Cavalier and Rubber Bullets. Still, it’s good to have Clinic back. If only there was more of Wheeltappers and Shunters, and more of ye olde bells and whistles to distinguish it from their previous work.