SCRUBS: Clinic’s newest, Do It!, is an 11-song case of the jitters.
Convicted murderer Gary Gilmore’s last words were, “Let’s do it!” The next sound was gunfire.
Liverpool quartet Clinic’s new album is called Do It! (Domino), but this disc has its own disturbing sonic agenda: throbbing fuzz guitars, odd-interval organ lines, chattering percussion, wheezing melodica, churning reeds, and club-footed beats blend into a riveting 11-song case of the jitters.
Clinic have been in the business of pleasing with uneasiness since their beginning 10 years ago, when the group first gathered around their musical hookah and toked deeply of German art-rock stalwarts Can, early Pink Floyd, composer John Barry, and cognitive nihilist philosopher and musician Henry Flynt, then exhaled their self-released debut, IPC Subeditors Dictate Our Youth. Next, they put on the scrubs and surgical masks they’ll wear when they play the Paradise this Friday and began chasing their muse across the world’s stages.
What’s as surprising as the odd juxtaposition of broke-dick acoustic Delta blues and Sgt. Pepper Technicolor they bring to a number like Do It!’s “Tomorrow” is how consistent they’ve been over the years. The same mesmeric off-kilter rhythms that made IPC Subeditors and their 2002 masterpiece, Walking with Thee (Domino), twitch also keep Do It! lurching to a different drummer. That would be Carl Turney, who specializes in the kind of lug-booted waltzes that have listeners breathing uncomfortably as they’re hypnotized.
In fact, all of Clinic is one big rhythm machine that eschews traditional solos, singing, and lead lines for a weave of metronomic parts that mesh into a fresh harmonic and melodic language — with a purposeful stutter. “The urgency that our rhythms give has been a key part of our music from the beginning,” explains Ade Blackburn, the group’s keyboardist and primary singer, via e-mail. “I see that as punk- or rock-and-roll-based. There seems a lot of music now that is either sluggish or pays no attention to rhythm. We want to make music that is exciting and has a direct impact on audiences.”
Fair enough, but there’s a cinematic element to Clinic as well — a sense of space and mood within their music. In Do It!’s “Corpus Christi,” for example, they conjure the claustrophobic bustle of an Arabic market with ringing castanets and microtonal guitar. Blackburn points to John Barry, the scorer of the “James Bond Theme” and Midnight Cowboy, as an inspiration for the band’s painting detailed pictures with simple melodies. But there’s also the flavor of classic rock-and-roll minimalism in their blend of spare lines and big volumes. “Early Pink Floyd, Can and Henry Flynt have influenced our approach,” Blackburn confirms. “The songs are usually based around one chord or a riff. The intensity from that is something those bands proved can work — often better than something more fussy and complex.”
And that’s Clinic’s MO: keeping things simple but smart. Sometimes even smarty-pantsed. Consider Do It!’s closing number, “Coda,” which might be described as Emerson Lake & Palmer playing at a circus with Federico Fellini as ringmaster. The album’s liner notes claim that the song is “a celebration of the 600th anniversary of the British charter, a celebration of sheer joy, lapping at your froth. The dog at your hearth; the past to your present.”
“That was tongue-in-cheek,” Blackburn admits. “The 600th celebration was actually in 1973, which seemed apt for ‘Coda,’ but in the UK in 1973, most music sounded like that.”
CLINIC + SHEARWATER + WILD LIGHT | Paradise, 967 Comm Ave, Boston | May 9 | 617.562.8800