Three albums into their career, Clinic had settled into a pretty comfortable groove with Winchester Cathedral, a familiar and safe, though certainly likeable album that did little to win over cynics and skeptics who cry afoul of their surgical mask shtick. There’s never been much middle ground on this band, and I’ve frequently come across people that liked them or didn’t, and a few who said that Internal Wrangler was good, while casting aside the remainder of their discography. I’ve always liked Clinic, myself, but I, too, felt that something was lacking on Winchester Cathedral, that being any sort of surprise.
At album number four, it was unclear which direction the Liverpool band was headed, particularly considering the two-year lapse between albums and somewhat lengthy period of inconspicuousness. With Visitations, there are certainly remnants of the past, particularly in hi-hat skating opener “Family,” which fits in snugly alongside the more upbeat tracks from their previous two albums. Yet track two, “Animal/Human,” reveals something different altogether. With a few cymbal crashes, zither strums and a trippy level of reverb, the band channels Syd Barrett before funking out into wah-wah jams at the end of the song. Something strange is going on here, and I like it.
Some revved up rock returns shortly in “Gideon,” though that too is soon offset with the weirdness of “Harvest (Within You)”, a lazily strutting song that becomes increasingly creepy through howling organ drones. Throughout the album, Clinic creates a strong contrast, moving back and forth between subtle, quieter songs and boisterous rockers. For instance, “Tusk” is a high speed punk rocker that crashes with more reckless abandon than any track here, yet “Paradise,” which follows, is a dreamy lullaby of a song. And yet, “Children of Kellogg,” which queues up right behind, explodes with energy and vigor, distortion and crashing bass drum barreling through the speakers. Although the band keeps up their energy on the vaguely spy theme-like “If You Could Read Your Mind.” Yet “Jigsaw Man,” while acoustic and far more restrained, sounds more or less like an unplugged version of, well, any of their songs.
With the title track, Clinic ends Visitations on an extremely high note. It’s a moody piece, displaying both depth and restraint, offering a glimpse of even more surprises to come. The band promises to record one new album per year, and with a renewed sense of creativity and vim, this could just be the beginning of a whole string of new and delightful offerings. In the meantime, we have yet another solid album to enjoy from a band that still has some new revelations up their sleeves.
kait0 – Band Red
Electrelane – The Power Out
Clinic – Walking With Thee
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.