Few bands are as simultaneously engaging and strange as Liverpool’s Clinic. The band came together in 1997 after singer Ade Blackburn and guitarist Jonathan Hartley scoured flea markets for vintage instruments that would become integral to Clinic’s peculiar organ-grinder-meets-kitchen-sink esthetic.
“I’d describe it as acid punk,” Blackburn explains. “The music is punk-based but with more color, derangement and exotic instruments; somewhere between The Seeds, Can and Minnie Riperton.”
Clinic has one foot in the Nuggets’ 1960s and another in late ’80s art punk. “We listened a lot to psychedelia and punk things like Love, the Electric Eels, but also Soft Cell and early Demis Roussos,” Blackburn says. Were they his idols? “We didn’t have idols in that sense. I think there’s too much music to listen to rather than being obsessive with a few people.”
Clinic’s latest album, Do It!, volleys with carefree abandon between sounding exotic and retro, all with an immediacy that contrasts the rich sonic environments of their 2006 album, Visitations. “We made Do It! deliberately less dense-sounding and brighter than the previous two albums,” Blackburn says. “There’s a lot more space and melody. I think it makes the LP more extreme, the sharp switches between melody and noise.”
If all that didn’t sound strange enough, Clinic’s members perform wearing surgical masks, creating a puzzling theatricality befitting their infectious music.
“I like bands like The Residents and The Monks (famous for wearing eyeball masks and monks’ robes, respectively), where there is humor and surreal elements outside of the everyday typical band lineup,” Blackburn says. As for whether it adds to or detracts from the music, he responds: “The outfits/masks are both for entertainment and just allowing the music to come through.”