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One of indie's most distinctive and mysterious acts, Clinic combine decades' worth of familiar sounds in surprising ways. At any given moment, it's possible to hear shades of the Seeds' churning garage rock, the Velvet Underground's chugging cool, Suicide's icy pulse, Ennio Morricone's spaghetti Western drama, or Augustus Pablo's moody dub within their music. Coupled with Ade Blackburn's acidic vocals and their fondness for wearing surgical masks in concert, the Liverpool-based act created an unmistakable image and sound that nevertheless shifted subtly on each album. On 2000's Internal Wrangler, Clinic led with the raw strangeness of their music, then emphasized its sophistication on 2002's chilly Walking with Thee. Later, when the band explored folk (on 2006's Visitations), '60s pop (on 2010's Bubblegum), and experimental electronics (on 2012's Free Reign), the results were equally unexpected and effortless. Despite their accomplishments over the years -- touring with Radiohead, a Grammy nomination -- Clinic remained outside of the mainstream with the acerbic political commentary of 2019's Wheeltappers and Shunters and the dreamy disco of 2021's Fantasy Island. Clinic formed in 1997, when longtime friends Ade Blackburn (vocals/guitars/keyboards) and Jonathan Hartley (guitars/keyboards) left their previous band, Pure Morning. To complete their new project's lineup, they recruited Brian Campbell (bass/flute/vocals) and Carl Turney (drums/piano/vocals). The band embellished on their punk and garage rock roots with keyboards they found at flea markets and jumble sales, as heard on their debut EP, I.P.C. Subeditors Dictate Our Youth. Released on their own Aladdin's Cave of Golf label, it reached number nine in John Peel's Festive 50 singles roundup of 1997. The following year, Clinic issued the equally well-received singles "Cement Mixer" and "Monkey on My Back." A bidding war followed, and the band signed with Domino Records in 1999 because of the label's diverse roster and independent spirit. Clinic's first release for Domino was that year's The Second Line, an EP whose title track peaked at number 24 on the U.K. Indie Singles Chart and was famously used in ads for Levi's Jeans in the U.K. The song also appeared on Clinic's acclaimed May 2000 debut album, Internal Wrangler. Over a year in the making and, like their previous releases, self-financed, the set reached number 12 on the U.K. Albums Chart and number 25 on the U.K. Indie Albums chart. The singles "The Return of Evil Bill" and "Distortions" both made it to the Top 20 of the U.K. Indie Singles Chart, while "The Second Line" made it to number 56 on the U.K. Singles Chart when it was re-released in support of the album. After an appearance at Scott Walker's Meltdown and All Tomorrow's Parties festivals and a tour with Radiohead, Clinic returned to the studio in 2001. Recorded in less than a month, February 2002's Walking with Thee provided a more spacious, atmospheric take on the group's sound. Peaking at 133 on the U.K. Albums Chart and number 20 on the U.K. Indie Albums Chart, the record's singles "Come Into Our Room" and the title track were also Top 20 hits on the U.K. Indie Singles Chart. In the U.S., Walking with Thee peaked at number 29 on Billboard's Independent Albums chart and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Alternative Music Album. Following Walking with Thee's success, Clinic took a different approach while making their next album. The band opted for a rougher, nearly demo-quality sound on Winchester Cathedral, which arrived in August 2004 and hit number 29 on the U.K. Indie Albums Chart; the single "The Magician" reached number 11 on the U.K. Indie Singles Chart. For their fifth full-length, Clinic reunited with Gareth Jones, who mixed Internal Wrangler and helped them give October 2006's Visitations a rawness that harked back to the band's early days. Reaching number 47 on the U.K. Indie Albums Chart, Visitations spawned a pair of Top Ten singles on the U.K. Indie Singles Chart, "Harvest" and "If You Could Read Your Mind." In June 2007, the band issued the B-sides collection Funf. Clinic then revisited their psych and garage rock leanings on Do It!, a self-produced set of songs that peaked at number 42 on the U.K. Indie Albums Chart upon its release in April 2008. Clinic changed gears once more on October 2010's Bubblegum, recruiting producer John Congleton for its gentler, chamber pop-inspired sound. The following April, the band delivered the covers EP Ladies Night, which featured a version of Man 2 Man's "Male Stripper," as a release for that year's Record Store Day. On their next album, Clinic made one of the biggest shifts to their distinctive style. Self-produced and featuring mixes by Oneohtrix Point Never's Daniel Lopatin, November 2012's Free Reign combined experimental electronics influenced by Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra with psychedelia and free jazz. The band's chemistry with Lopatin was so potent that the producer remixed the album as March 2013's Free Reign II. Following Free Reign's release, Clinic went on hiatus. During the band's time off, Blackburn and Hartley formed Higher Authorities, a side project that let them indulge their love of dub more deeply than they could with Clinic. Featuring collaborations with legendary dub producer Adrian Sherwood, the duo's debut album, Neptune, arrived in April 2016. That May, Clinic resurfaced to perform with John Cale at his Liverpool performance of the Velvet Underground's classic album The Velvet Underground & Nico. In May 2019, the band returned with their eighth album, Wheeltappers and Shunters. Taking its name from a British variety TV show from the '70s, the record combined some of Clinic's most straightforward songwriting with a satirical take on politics and nostalgia. The set reached number 33 on the U.K. Indie Albums Chart, marking the group's first appearance on the chart in over a decade. Soon after Wheeltappers' release, Clinic -- now the duo of Blackburn and Hartley -- began work on a new album. Taking inspiration from Kid Creole and the Coconuts, the Human League, and other '80s pop music, October 2021's Fantasy Island offered a more lighthearted and pop-focused version of the band's sound.
© Heather Phares /TiVo
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