by Mike Corrigan

Walking With Thee (Domino) finds Liverpool-based Clinic burrowing out of garage rock's dead-end alley with the same ferocity and focus that made their 2001 debut, Internal Wrangler, such an unexpected, demented delight. This band produces time-defying, blindingly original rock by dissecting left-of-the-dial genres (vintage garage, art rock, psychobilly, goth) and re-assembling them with very few of the stitches showing.

Like something beautiful moving through the night or lurking in the most obscured corner of an all-but-deserted subterranean lounge, the sonics achieved on Walking With Thee are unsettling yet irresistible. Despite the variety of sounds found on the album, a relatively limited palette is chosen for each song, increasing, not diminishing, impact. There's something unseen and vaguely sinister happening down here -- most notably the clear undermining of most prevailing rock and pop conventions.

Committed to the eternal are the exotic, unholy sounds of the melodica chiming and droning in and out of the void, along with the twitchy vocals of singer Ade Blackburn, which argue the crazy case like Suicide's Alan Vega or a sedate version of the Pixies' Frank Black. Complementing his softly strangled stylings are acoustic and electronic percussion, the mournful spaghetti-Western bleat of a distant harmonica, the cry of clarinet and the obscure insinuations of creepy keyboard lines. The haunting atmospherics and pleading lyrics suggest longing barely restrained, desperation allowed to surface only in carefully measured bubbles and questions that don't have easy answers.

"Harmony" (with its shaky declaration: "I believe in harmony / I believe in Christmas Eve") is a fine introduction to the album's slow steady burn and suggests a search for footing on a slope crumbling under the weight of doubt and betrayal. On "Welcome," Blackburn sings/whispers "Who could you disintegrate for?" as driving electric guitar, high hat and floor tom construct the primitive beats of an inhibition-purging voodoo revival. "Walking with Thee" is even more urgent, with an especially tortured vocal and a menacing, growling organ lead. "Pet Eunuch" represents the album's balls-out rocking zenith (not to mention the crest of Blackburn's vocal unintelligibility). On the other end of the range, specters waltz through the gorgeous, hypnotic textures of the album closer, "For the Wars."

This is strange and intoxicating stuff. Must listen to it again.

Publication date: 02/13/03

Festival of Fair Trade @ Community Building

Sun., Nov. 27, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
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