Clinic: Bubblegum

Clinic returns with yet another solid album, this time turning the volume down and letting the '60s psych-pop haze pour in.



Label: Domino
US Release Date: 2010-10-04
UK Release Date: 2010-10-04

“In the dark, you’re never gone,” sings Clinic frontman Ade Blackburn on the opening track of his band’s new record, Bubblegum. The line could sum up Clinic’s status at the almost 15-year mark of the Liverpool group’s career. They’ve built up a clearly devoted fanbase around their organ-drenched updates on 1960s psychedelic pop, but mainstream success has largely eluded them. In some ways, they’re like a UK version of Austin’s Spoon -- a band who constructs songs on the backbone of tried-and-true rock 'n' roll tropes, always sounding tight and lively, prepossessed of a signature sound but never tired or formulaic. However, where Spoon has made it to the arena scene, Clinic’s still hitting midsized clubs, at least stateside.

Bubblegum has a good a chance as any of the band’s discography at changing that. It’s another successful record of catchy, slightly stoned songs. If it doesn’t really push Clinic’s sound forward dramatically, it continues to refine that sound to a point (not a razor sharp point like Britt Daniel’s band, but more of a pleasant, nicely rounded edge). That opening song, lead single “I’m Aware", shows the band in such comfortable form. Gentle “ooh-ooh” background harmonies support washes of reverb and wah-ed guitar to blissed out effect. There may have been some other British pop groups hailing from Liverpool at some point that made music with a similar vibe, but the wonderful haze of “I’m Aware” makes it hard to poke your head through the clouds to think about anything else.

The album’s title track continues in the same vein, adding Clinic’s beloved organ and some nicely punchy lead guitar, distorted to the point where it almost sounds like bursts of fanfare. Carl Turney’s backbeat keeps things uptempo, so “Bubblegum” never becomes twee or recedes too far in the background. Chillwave, take note. By the time “Baby” kicks in with the third wah pedal in a row, one knows for sure that Clinic’s chosen the sleepier side of garage rock in which to indulge this time around. Again, it’s not a move forward or backward, really, but rather it seems like a naturally lateral move. Blackburn’s croon glides so effortlessly along with the instrumentation that one never thinks to question the direction, here.

“Lion Tamer’s” distorted vocals and percussive drive -- the drums feature toms here! -- seem jarring in the context of the album, and the song offers a nice boost in energy. The same holds true for the bouncing “Evelyn” later on. Otherwise, Bubblegum goes down smoothly throughout. “Linda” is relaxed even for this album, as Blackburn describes the titular heroine “high as a kite” who has “all you see there to take”. “Radiostory” moves at a similar pace, but Blackburn shakes things up by offering a spoken word approach, telling an engaging narrative about a couple’s initial meeting. His eye for detail proves quite keen: “Her fingers deftly undoing the button on his borrowed shirt / No noise except for the buzz of the overhead light and their breathing.” The song is intoxicating in a different way than the rest of the album’s easy beauty, as if the boys in Arab Strap had suddenly cheered up and found love.

If you’re not onboard by the time “Radiostory” comes through the speakers, the rest of Bubblegum likely won’t change your mind. The album continues apace in its subtle appeal. The voiceless “Un Astronauta En Cielo” brings a drum machine and IDM keys to an ethereal interlude, and “Orangutan” finishes the album by moving into the 1970s with its fuzzed out guitar lick. Blackburn and Clinic know what they’re doing by now, and they do it well. It’s nice to have some consistency in the world, and if Clinic doesn’t rewrite their songbook with each album, that’s all right. Bubblegum will lull away your complaints.






Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.