If the members of Clinic were real doctors, they would probably work in the morgue. On Do It!, the masked men return with yet another installment of dark, psychedelic freak-folk, an album filled with a dense and heavy collection of gloomy jams and Syd Barrett-esque ramblings.
Clinic has never been much of a commercial success, but they’ve often been lauded by critics and patronized by fellow indie artists. Arcade Fire not only enlisted Clinic to open for them on last year’s UK tour, but they’ve even been known to cover Clinic’s “Distortions” live. Do It! is perhaps Clinic’s most concise and accessible album, but it’s still a challenging one.
“Memories” – the album’s best track – juxtaposes pounding, fuzzed-out guitars with shimmering organs. The combination of a driving guitar riff and Ade Blackburn’s uncanny vocals and rummage sale keyboarding proves to be both unsettling and captivating. “Tomorrow” taps perfectly into the ’70s art-rock aesthetic. At the same time, the spacey guitars and swinging beats of “Free Not Free” and “Emotions” sound eerily similar to Amnesiac-era Radiohead á la “Dollars and Cents” and “Life in a Glass House.” Blackburn is no Thom Yorke, but with lines such as “With the flask split on your lips here / And the pie charts now become clear,” he is no less cryptic.
As Do It! progresses, though, it tends to grow monotonous. In the 10 years of its existence, Clinic has been a prolific band, releasing five full-length records and a handful of EPs and compilations. While the group’s sound is clearly their own, the albums all tend to play out the same way. Clinic creates eccentric and adventurous songs, but eccentric and adventurous seems to mean the same thing every time (take, for example, “The Witch” and their 2006 single “Harvest”). Too many of Clinic’s songs tend to get lost in the banshee beats and creepy vocals that have defined its catalogue.
By the second half of Do It!, the satanic grooves and angular guitars start to grow old. While the punk energy of “Shopping Bag” is a nice wake up, “Corpus Christi” and “High Coin” are tiresome affairs. “Mary & Eddie” is an alluring sea chantey with an exciting and climatic build-up of noise and distortion, but the following track, “Winged Wheel,” does little to stand out from the nine tracks that precede it.
Do It! has some of Clinic’s best tracks to date, but it pales in comparison to the band’s classics, such as Internal Wrangler. Too many songs on their latest rely heavily on the dark atmosphere of the record instead of exploring and establishing their own identity.
Clinic once again has proven that it’s a band with a very distinct vision of art, whether wearing surgical masks or creating noisy sound collages, but on Do It!, Clinic gets too caught up being Clinic.