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neumu
Friday, July 25, 2014 
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Clinic
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Walking With Thee
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When I interviewed Clinic for Neumu back in October, I talked to drummer Carl Turney about how a band should evolve. "When a band has a really good album, or you see a good painting and somebody else does something in that style, it's never as good as the impact of when you first saw or heard that actual thing," he said. Turney neglected to mention that the same holds true when a band repeats itself. Walking With Thee, Clinic's second full-length, isn't a rehashing of last year's Internal Wrangler; it's actually an inferior version of it.

Walking With Thee is not, by any means, a bad record. Not even close. But one of the primary elements that made Internal Wrangler and Clinic's early singles so special — their heavy emphasis on unique, funk-based rhythms — has largely disappeared. "The Equaliser," the album's second track, employs the layered beats Clinic used so effectively on their previous recordings, the numerous snaps and thumps that overlap and play off each other. But only two others, "Welcome" and "Sunlight Bathes Our Home," prominently feature Turney's creative percussive style.

What the album does feature is the band's growing penchant for writing long, mid-tempo songs. Out of Walking With Thee's 11 cuts, two are rave-ups, two are ballads and the rest are somewhere in between. These plodding tunes are not the band's strong point, especially now that most stretch to the four-minute mark (out of the 29 songs the band has previously released, only two have neared four minutes). Clinic's organ-infused garage rock works best when they use a punk approach — get in and out quickly without playing anything superfluous.

While Walking With Thee is not overflowing with wanky soloing or anything like that, a few songs don't progress anywhere despite their relative lengthiness. The best example of this, "Come Into Our Room," is just plain monotonous, with a dull keyboard riff and a forgettable melody that goes on for three minutes and 50 seconds without much of a change. In, say, a two-minute song, the simplicity of the hook might be more arresting, but drawn out it's just boring.

There are great moments on this record, though. The pensive hi-hat snap and Ade Blackburn's shaky voice make "Harmony," the album's opener, wonderfully nervous. It's a great way to start off an album — not with a bang or an embrace, but a jittery shrug.

If it weren't so professionally recorded, "Welcome" could pass for one of Clinic's first songs. The disc's loosest cut, the vocal hisses "disintegrate" during the chorus, like a command from a child to a hated sibling. Much more settling is "Mr. Moonlight," a tender ballad filled with bluesy, Velvet Underground-style guitars.

The Velvets, Modern Lovers and Nuggets-era garage are just as omnipresent on Walking With Thee as they were on Internal Wrangler. Clinic nearly drown in the amount of groups they absorb into their own distinct sound. But they are smart and tasteful about it. They know their rock history. They know what worked and what didn't. Problem is, Clinic realized how well Internal Wrangler worked and they've decided to give it another try, only they've misplaced the bits that made it so extraordinary in the first place.


by Yancey Strickler




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