Clinic - Wheeltappers & Shunters - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Clinic - Wheeltappers & Shunters

by Tim Sentz Rating:8 Release Date:2019-05-10
Clinic - Wheeltappers & Shunters
Clinic - Wheeltappers & Shunters

When the Liverpool post-punk/noise rock outfit Clinic burst onto the scene in the late 90s, a lot of Radiohead comparisons were lobbed at them. But over the course of seven LPs, Clinic forged their own path. Merging the electronic tendencies of 80s post-punk and new wave, the band emerged as a bitter pill; one that was hard to define genre-wise, and it led to some interesting and not-so-interesting entries in their catalog. Their work with electronic maestro Oneohtrix Point Never on 2013’s reimagining of Free Reign (dubbed Free Reign II), was lauded as a re-alignment with their strengths after a few underwhelming albums.

After a six-year break, Clinic returns with Wheeltappers & Shunters, the title deriving from a 1970s UK show of the same name. Wheeltappers presents Clinic in a more weirdo-noise rock territory, but still maintaining their penchant for brisk storytelling, and oddball samples. Kicking things off with the foot-stomper “Laughing Cavalier” lead singer Adrian Blackburn posits “All the fun of the fair, are you really all still there?”  before cynically laughing at the audience. It’s this brand of humor that attracted fans to Clinic in the first place, and it’s nice to see their playful nature return on Wheeltappers, an album that’s made all the more powerful by its brevity; at only 28 minutes in length, Clinic pack as much diverse atmosphere as they can in such a short time.

Wheeltappers & Shunters is the most recent entry in a long line of apocalyptic records brought forth by the recent year’s revelations like the Trump presidency, Brexit, mass shootings, the rise of streaming, and reliance on cellphones and social media for interaction. And while the topics addressed (directly and indirectly) are getting a little bit tiresome, it’s nevertheless a well-balanced record from Clinic, and finds them rejuvenated for the first time since 2008’s underrated Do It! First single “Rubber Bullets,” shows off Blackburn’s synchronicity with his band, he harmonizes like the best of them, and even the samples feel necessary here – “The best is yet to come,” he sings, and one can only hope that his new freshness to Clinic continues on subsequent releases.

Clinic manage to create a dizzying replica of 60s psychedelia with “Mirage,” a tripped-out dancefloor melody, with hushed cryptic vocals from Blackburn that send tingles. It’s followed with the throwback “D.I.S.C.I.P.L.E.” a direct homage to early-Clinic and a sure-to-be favorite for devoted fans. Elsewhere on the record, “Rejoice!” is another foot-stomper that hearkens back to Internal Wrangler-style compositions. Despite the lengthy absence to focus on other important tasks, Clinic have returned with a grab-bag of their greatest strengths, and while nothing on Wheeltappers comes surprising, it’s still a tightly wound noise rock record with plenty of exhilarating moments. Wheeltappers is further proof that a lengthy absence doesn’t require a gargantuan comeback album, but rather a carefully crafted piece of art. The fact that it’s a success speaks volumes of the band and where they are at as a unit.

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