Clinic: Bubblegum

B+

Clinic

Album: Bubblegum
Label: Domino

Liverpool’s Clinic is one of the most strangely reliable groups out there—reliable in that a template was established early, and strange in that the template is all over the place. A typical Clinic album zigzags among snarling garage-rock thrash, honeyed British folk, and vehicles for Ade Blackburn’s floating melodica and slinky organ. Bubblegum, the band’s sixth album, has a slightly more homogenous sound; it’s a more sharply etched version of 2004’s Winchester Cathedral, which leaned more on the band’s slow, pretty (and sleepy) side. Bubblegum moves more than Cathedral, from the lazy bump of “Orangutan” to the acoustic foot-stomp (with a touch of vintage synth, of course) on “Forever (Demi’s Blues).” Blackburn’s mush-mouthed singing makes some of these songs a puzzle; he gets plenty of emotion into the hushed, delicately folky “Another Way Of Giving” and the splashy “I’m Aware,” but the arrangements draw the ear more than lines like the latter’s “No imitations, no one is vacant.” But in spite of the obvious artiness, Clinic’s music has a lived-in warmth that matches its skill.