Not many bands say as much in two minutes as Clinic, Britain's garage rock newcomers. Practicing a punk credo of concise, sonic songwriting, the Liverpool quartet has crafted 14 wholly novel and oddly retro tracks for its 31-minute-long debut, Internal Wrangler. Led by frontman Ade Blackburn's high-pitched howls, Clinic has created a terse compilation of psychedelic jams that sound like the Velvet Underground hashing out a few Pixies tunes. Add to that the band's penchant for sampling surf sounds, blasting organs, and donning surgical attire onstage in homage to the '70s San Francisco punk outfit Crime (its members wore police uniforms), and Clinic makes for a welcome change from the two-step, trance, and Britpop currently vying as English imports.
The group first received accolades for its droll 1997 punk single "IPC Sub-Editors Dictate Our Youth." Feeding off that energy and wit, Internal Wrangler tracks such as "The Return of Evil Bill" and the title track are evidence of the band's roguish style, as its keyboardist (who goes by the name of Hartley) spreads ominous organ textures over Blackburn's up-tempo guitar work and Perry Farrell-like crooning. Not to be outdone, bassist Brian Campbell pens sumptuous grooves in the vein of the Velvets on rock ballads such as "Distortions" and "Goodnight Georgie." With drummer Carl Turney, the foursome even tinkers with electronica on "DJ Shangri-La," which owes as much to Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" as to DJ Shadow's "High Noon." Yet the same outpouring of energy and eclecticism that makes this album unique also suggests its lack of coherence. Songs ignite into psychedelic eruptions that dissipate quickly and move in no discernible direction. Still, the band's unpredictable outbursts are also its charm, and the wild ride is what makes this short visit to the Clinic worthwhile.