PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Clinic: Visitations

Though not quite as good as their first two CDs, Visitations is a strong and nicely varied album that finds Clinic back in the groove.



Label: Domino
US Release Date: 2007-01-23
UK Release Date: 2006-10-16

The folks at Domino are hedging their bets with Clinic, seemingly unsure of the band's toehold on the thread of indie cool jaggedly stitched across the fabric of music listening in the USA. The band's fourth album, Visitations, was released in Clinic and Domino's homeland, the UK, back in October of 2006. Fans across the pond, however, were buying new wall calendars before they had the chance to buy the new Clinic album at a domestic rate. Only with the group's third album, the limp and insular Winchester Cathedral, has the band seen an album released in the US and the UK in the same week. Ironically, it was their worst record, receiving unenthusiastic press, including this PopMatters review. For me, the album was ruined by its very first sounds, a flatlining on a heart rate monitor. Aren't the surgical masks cheesy enough? And, while we're at it, what was up with the Sylvester the Cat vocals on "Circle of Fifths"? Thufferin' thuccotash! So, yes, Clinic's record label was understandably cautious about the band's latest disc. After a triumphant beginning, Clinic's releases have since offered diminishing returns.

The group made a splash with their excellent 2000 debut, Internal Wrangler. Praised by Radiohead (with whom they toured), Clinic emerged with a focused and gritty sound at a time when indie rock was scattered and fractured, and the acts creating concise and energetic music were teeny-boppers like *NSYNC and Britney Spears. In an era when independent-label music had no scene and no sound, Clinic came out of left field (and Liverpool) with a fresh approach that combined the motor-fueled polyrhythms of kraut rock with Hartley's surfy, reverb-drenched guitars, and Ade Blackburn's high, nasal vocals. The band retained all of these elements for their 2002 follow-up, Walking with Thee. Nearly as strong as its predecessor, this sophomore effort felt perhaps a tad too polished, trading in the fun, weird, experimental song sketches sprinkled here and there throughout Wrangler for a traditional line-up of tracks running in the range of two to four-plus minutes. What each of these records possessed, what made them a little extra special, was one standout number of slow and melancholic beauty. On the first CD, this was the warm dirge of "Distortions"; on Walking, it was a twinkling waltz called "Before the War".

The new album, Visitations, lacks that one poignant moment, but Clinic otherwise manage a fine return to form. Post-punky single "Harvest" simmers with tension as it rides Carl Turney's slow Burundi beat and scraping, muted rhythm guitar into swelling organ chords. Opener "Family", meanwhile, is more insistent, with a loud, garage blues guitar driving the song. "Paradise" keeps the band's melodica-like sound alive for a dubby but un-sunny tune better suited to heroin than ganja. The group even get acoustic on "Jigsaw Man" with folk guitar and conga beats. The hazy title track closes the album with a melody inspired by a half-speed take on the James Bond theme song.

Visitations is a strong and nicely varied album that swiftly corrects what had been a steady downward trend in Clinic's recording career. Sonically lying somewhere between the scrappy Internal Wrangler and the cleaner Walking with Thee, this new disc is, I suppose one could call it, "classic" Clinic. Nonetheless, it is not a classic album. The Clinic sound remains unique in the indie world, but Visitations doesn't distinguish itself from the group's older and slightly better records. Fans will likely be delighted by this release, but anyone else who already owns the first couple of Clinic CDs can content themselves with knowing they've got the best entries from the band's discography. Still, it's great to find Clinic back in the groove. For indie rock lovers in the US, Visitations is a good start to the new year in music.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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