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The music behind the masks

By BRIAN ORLOFF
Published January 30, 2007


Chances are if you've seen Liverpool-based art rockers Clinic live, you won't easily forget them. That's because in concert the outfit, fronted by Ade Blackburn, dons surgical masks and scrubs. It's a bizarre gimmick, and it complements the band's unique sound: nervy indie rock, all fuzzed-out guitars and chilly atmospherics.

On Visitations, the band's fourth album, Clinic continues to mine off-kilter melodies, outfitting tunes with eerie melodica, frittered bass lines and explosions of noise. Blackburn's voice wafts through the songs like billowy smoke. Still, there's something wonderfully austere, surgical even, about the band's consciously sculpted and engineered sound. It is undeniably creepy, yet alluring. The band actively courts unsettling, cryptic imagery. On the spectral, finger-picked Jigsaw Man, Blackburn's delivery comes across like a haunted transmission. For every spare, fragile-feeling moment on the record, Clinic offers rocking counterpoints. There's the rave-up Tusk, under two minutes of anxious, hard-ticking energy. Or the almost psychedelic-sounding If You Could Read Your Mind, just as puzzling as its title suggests. And the title track, a slow-building, hazy tune, registers as among the finest work the band has ever concocted.

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REVIEW

Clinic, Visitations (Domino). Grade: B+