Domino Records- 2004 - 36 minutes
For a band like Clinic making records in what some like to call the 'art rock' genre, there is no greater endorsement than the patronage of the kings of avant garde, Radiohead. The group have toured extensively with the Oxford rock gods, beginning in 2000 in Radiohead's famous No Logo touring circus tent.
'Winchester Cathedral' begins with an electronic pulse, like a heart monitor bleeping the four Liverpudlian clinicians back into life on this their third album. On the opener, 'Country Mile', Ade Blackburn's singing is fraught and frenetic, backed up with a repeated guitar lick and insistent drumming, while 'Circle of Fifths' features a piano line that is so staccato it sounds like it was recorded on the chopped up instrument on the record's back cover.
Lilting ballad 'Anne' and first single 'The Magician' pursue the same line of inquiry, with the band opening a seam of quirky psychedelia and examining every corner. On instrumentals 'Vertical Take Off', 'WDYYB' and 'August', the doctors turn up and speed up their guitars, making a musical backdrop as charged and insistent as the vocals.
A clarinet makes an unexpected but welcome appearance on album highlight 'Falstaff', which finds Clinic at their most jazzy, melodious and emotional, and sees Blackburn coming close to sounding like Thom Yorke. 'Fingers' closes the record largely where it began, with stabbing piano chords, tortured vocals and skewed guitars.
The virtual absence of choruses throughout is reminiscent of the fragmented quality of Radiohead's fusion of electronica and rock in their Kid A/Amnesiac phase. Clinic seem to have chosen this era as their base of operations - like those records, 'Winchester Cathedral' improves steadily with every listen, and similarly offers invention without sacrificing musical quality or raw human emotion.
For Radiohead fans, it might be a long wait for the out-of-contract band's next record, and entering the world of Clinic might not be worst idea in the meantime.
Tracklisting: Country Mile - Circle of Fifths - Anne - The Magician - Vertical Take Off in Egypt - Home - WDYYB - The Majestic #2 - Falstaff - August - Thank You (For Living) - Fingers.