driving with thee

Back from the Jersey shore, shaking sand from my sandals and stuffing warm shirts in a bag for the trip up north, and I'm thinking that nothing provokes thought quite like travel, or transportation. Historically I've preferred to fly solo, but I have decided that sometimes it's nicer to get from here to there with someone else.

I'm also sorting CDs for the eight-hour car trip, and I just came across Clinic's Walking with Thee. I first read about Clinic in Interview some years back - 2000, maybe? 2001? At the time I wasn't savvy enough to think that a band wearing surgical masks might be, um, un peu de gimmique. I just thought it was peculiar, and intriguing. I liked that they were from England (hinting at a humor darker and foggier than the average American's), and that they seemed to be utterly intent on doing precisely what they were doing, however peculiar someone like me might find it. For this reason, and the fact that I found the cover art appealing, I picked up Walking with Thee, their second album (but the first that anyone seemed to notice).

The record quickly became my listen of choice on long bus, train, and plane rides - it's so damn full of sound, it overwhelms the other passengers' chatter, the groan of the tires, and the bats in your head. I wouldn't call it soothing, but I would call it enveloping, layered, fuzzy, and loud. Sort of like a really bold blanket. Epitonic describes singer Ade Blackburn's voice as "the delirious byproduct of a fever dream," and if you've ever spent twelve hours on a train or ridden a night bus through the midwest, you'll know that this would make an apt companion.

I once talked someone into buying this record, because I liked it so much, and he put it aside, saying it was "kinda creepy," and perhaps it is. The drums get hypnotic, the loops build up, the guitars are thick as fog, and why is he singing like he's being strangled? Don't run and hide, though. This could be unbearable if it weren't so restrained; Clinic don't linger any longer than they have to (no eight-minute wankfests here), and each song has a strong, healthy pulse. I don't think it sounds like a nightmare so much as a waking dream, one where weird things happen but no one gets killed, and in the end you open your eyes and you're somewhere far from where you started.

Favorite tracks: "Harmony," "Walking with Thee," "Pet Eunuch"

Some info and video links from MTV.com.

Clinic on Epitonic.

Official Domino Records page.

Additional historical note from a 2002 Rolling Stone interview with Karen O: "I was drinking margaritas with my girlfriends, and we were totally trashed. We destroyed Clinic's dressing room and stole all their masks. We got kicked out, and on our way out we shoved Courtney Love. Then we went back to our $5,000 suite that some record label was paying for and freaked out more. It was a big rock-star night."


Blogger d said...

either a) clinic made fun of karen o's turkey in aluminum outfit & after she had a wee cry in the toilets she recouped & gathered some drunk bitches & seriously retaliated (totally justified, guys in doctor's masks shouldn't be mocking avant garde rock design) OR b) karen o is a mean drunk skank.

only one of our contributors can confirm the story. let's get them on that.

10:46 AM, June 20, 2005  

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