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Nothing to Wrangle About

Amidst all the Manic Street Preachers and Coldplays, sometimes it seems like the Brits can't remember how to have any rock On roll fun. However, this first full-length effort from Clinic stands out all the more as a lively gem amongst last year's releases--a burst of playful energy that is cheeky without irony and rocking without being smothered in pomp.

Just recently released in the States, Internal Wrangler will be a hard but rewarding find at the record store. With only a few singles under their belt, Clinic has come immediately into their own sound--a raucous blend of punk and krautrock, art-house and surf rock. It's still a bit raw and unrefined in the best Velvet Underground tradition, and these tracks are all ideas in various degrees of realization, but at this point in the young band's career, that's all part of the fun.

Jarring guitar, blaring horns and booming drums rock through many of the tracks (such as the highlights "Return of Evil Bill" and "Hippy Death Suite"), with the alarm-call wailing checked and affected by Ade Blackburn's sleek, seductive, often nasally unintelligible yet always arresting vocals. Ade sounds a bit like a Thom Yorke who's amused--rather than confused and angered--by the world's absurdities. Indeed, at times Clinic could be Bends-era Radiohead transplanted out of the stadium and into a bar.

Which is not to say that this is all punkish, bratty indie posing. Clinic shows even in their debut a promising impulse and ability to experiment with their sound. "The Second Line"'s deceptively gentle groove lays down a simple, funky scat that makes no sense to the mind but speaks fluently in the language of the booty. The biggest surprises of all come late in the album, with sweet balladry of "Distortions" and "Goodnight Georgie" revealing a gift for delicate melody that Clinic's garage brassiness had previously covered over.

It is, of course, a debut album that can't be expected to run flawlessly (such as when their punkier impulses run unrestrained mid-album in the one-two duds of "CQ" and "TK"). But the formation of such a distinct sound out of such familiar influences is an achievement in and of itself, and damned if it isn't fun just to imagine them getting all their ya-yas out with smiles on their faces.

--By Greg Bloom


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