Clinic: Winchester Cathedral

The band makes sounds as if they were pulled together from instruments found in a deserted building and plays them as if they were fugitives from a carnival, leading to an end product that is desperate and raw. Clinic: Winchester Cathedral (Domino Recording Co. LTD)
Winchester Cathedral begins with a heartbeat monitor racing out of control. It makes a promise that is fulfilled time and again on this album—passions race, emotions race, and mostly, the music speeds along at a brilliant rate. “Country Mile” gets the album off to a great start with Ade Blackburn’s accent—full, upfront, menacing, and guttural—dancing around the bastardized instruments. The band makes sounds as if they were pulled together from instruments found in a deserted building and plays them as if they were fugitives from a carnival, leading to an end product that is desperate and raw. The songs, tilted and blurred, seem to come from tapes run at different speeds, and the MC offers commentary that doesn’t always run simultaneously with what is being shown on the screen. Blaring horns, vocorders, and pianos all form a joyous cacophony on the Liverpool band’s third album.

The driving sound of songs like “Circle of Fifths” and “Magician” take the listener to an unspecified Middle Eastern country with the accompanying intrigue and angst. The anarchy verges on control in songs such as “Home” and the haunting “Anne,” but they are merely a respite before launching into something nonsensical like “WDYYB.” “Majestic #2” features Blackburn seemingly from beneath water. Nonetheless, it provides an undeniably charismatic performance. Honestly, I understood about half of all the words sung on Winchester Cathedral due to Blackburn’s strong accent, but the overall package gels as tightly as a musical Twin Peaks (the good episodes that came early on, not later when it became incomprehensible).

“Thank You (for Living)” starts to sound very Hallmarkian with its verse of “Thank you for living, thank you for giving,” but Blackburn sings with such conviction that you know there is a sense of desperation and relief in the song, as if he is seriously considering the alternative. “Fingers” ends out the album instrumentally, offering proof that Clinic can fill a mood both with words and without.

Winchester Cathedral, named after the famous English landmark (or perhaps the 1966 hit by the New Vaudeville Band), brings you to a time and place that is indistinct and at times disorienting, but the adventure is worth it. You will find yourself dancing, perhaps even along with an accordion-playing dwarf or two.

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