Walking into the Liverpool’s strangest venue The Kazimier (imagine if David Lynch had directed The Hitman and Her) for a night advertised as a ‘mass freak out’, it’s surprising to hear the polite, yet tuneful, geek rock of Married To The Sea.
Far too polished to stand toe-to-toe with the heavier sounds that come later, Married To The Sea are nevertheless a melodic and talented bunch who’s Weezer-esque stylings and breathless pop sensibilities mark them as ones to watch.
Far more likely to instigate the aforementioned freakout are Liverpool’s Mugstar, who have been force-feeding unsuspecting audiences with their sonic mantras of repetitive heaviness for half a decade now.
The sheer brutality behind their pulsing, percussive slabs of stoner rock is a sight to behold live, with frontman Pete Smyth’s dervish-like commitment to the cause of an arresting visual aide. Shades of Neu! and Sonic Youth are constant but there’s even a warped pop sensibility behind the likes of Furklausundbo and Subtle Freak. Their performance ends in a howl of feedback and strobes leaving a thrilled crowd sated and stunned. Magnificent.
Tonight’s headliners, Clinic, can now claim to be genuine elder statesmen of the North West’s garage noise scene, and yet they’ve always seemed slightly reluctant to bask in their success, hiding symbolically behind their surgical masks and rarely playing their home town. It’s a shame because they deserve every bit of acclaim that is thrown their way, being as they are one of Britain’s finest bands of the last decade.
With 2008’s acclaimed Do It! behind them and a new album on the horizon, it’s a welcome surprise to see Clinic kick off proceedings with 1997’s wonderful debut single IPC Sub Editors Dictate Our Youth.
In many ways this makes perfect sense, as Clinic is a band who seemingly arrived fully formed with a formula all their own, intent on following a similar road as the one so beautifully summed up in John Peel’s famous description of The Fall – ‘always different, always the same.’
So what are those elements? Snatches of Krautrock, a lot of Velvet Underground and Suicide, warped rockabilly, Morricone soundtracks, the melodica-soaked dub of Augustus Pablo and Spector-esque backing vocals are certainly a few of them. Add in singer Ade Blackburn’s childlike whine and Carl Turney’s incessant drumming and you’ll know doubt realise you are listening to a Clinic song after little more than an opening bar or two.
With a combination of ingredients so beautifully formed, Clinic and their fans will argue no progression is needed and indeed listening to this near-perfect set of their finest moments it is easy to see why they have never felt the need to sound anything other than themselves.
From their ad-driven nearly hit The Second Line – what were Levis thinking? – to the should-have-been number one genius of Walking With Thee, Clinic take the listener on an eerie journey through their blueprint sound. Yes it’s brilliant and Clinic is a great band but shouldn’t they, a decade down the line, start testing themselves (and us) a little more?
For a band obviously so familiar with the motorik groove, couldn’t they occasionally stretch out a song beyond 2 minutes? Churlish criticisms perhaps, in the face of such downright excellence, but ones that Clinic should take note of.
Until then though, we can revel in the slightly uncomfortable but at the same time, very reassuring knowledge that Clinic are still going and are still wonderful.
• Jamie Bowman is a freelance journalist