Liverpool, Denver, and Portland: An old rock triangle

By Mario Diaz-Perez

Clinic w/ Apples in Stereo and the Standard


October 12, 2002

Last Saturday night, the newly popular Liverpool band Clinic played to a sold-out crowd at the Metro. Opening for the band were the pop-edged Apples in Stereo and the Standard, a somber and darkly melodic quintet. The contrast in styles between the bands provided a musically diverse evening and the entire event was a very well performed and arranged small-venue show.

Clinic’s roots are far more diverse than those of any other band out there right now. Their percussion is a hybrid of computer drum loops and tom-tom and snare drum poundings. This foundation is elevated by a guitar sound full of punk edge and flashy hooks, as well as a very musical bass player. At the helm of the wooly and eerie melodies that the band uses is a clips-and-phrase uttering lead singer, guitar, and melodica player. The band always performs wearing medical scrubs and surgical masks. It sounds a little unnecessary and oddball, but once you see them perform it all, it becomes easy to understand the brilliantly morose aesthetic behind it all.

According to drummer Carl Turney, “[We] want to break down the identities and personalities of the band and turn them into one whole.” It gives the band the opportunity to separate itself from the audience and become four badass, suited-up guys ready to craft these cyclically melodic and rhythmically robotic songs.

The band takes a very collective and collage-like approach to constructing its songs. “It’s an open-ended process in which we take a communal roll-it’s not like each particular member has to come up with his special part for the song.” Most of Clinic’s songs are rhythm based with melodic textures worked into the grooves, and hooks driving the song. “It always starts with a rock-solid idea that we come together to sort of elevate or enhance. Sometimes we even combine songs that we’ve been working on.” Whatever approach they take, Clinic’s members have managed to create a brilliantly austere and haunting sound.

The members of Clinic don’t have any delusions of grandeur. They didn’t expect their music to make it on daytime MTV or radio. They realize that their whole approach is very different from what is played on modern rock stations. Nevertheless, one of their songs, “Walking With Thee,” has made it onto modern rock stations. The song features a strong drumbeat and a blaring guitar and keyboard sound. In fact, like many of the songs on Walking With Thee and 2000’s Internal Wrangler, “Walking With Thee” is pop-based and can easily appeal to different types of music lovers.

Just because Clinic doesn’t expect fame does not mean its members shun exposure. Instead, they want to earn unquestionable, genuine, article-making fame, which is entirely dependent upon the types of listeners out there. Turney told the MAROON, “Once an original band reaches a high point, numerous imitators and offshoots of that band pop up as well. The original article is what stands the test of time. We want to be the one of those bands that starts something new-a completely new sound. But I think that kind of success is purely bound to chance—it’s all about being at the right place at the right time. Hopefully, we can be around at the right time.”

There were plenty of true Clinic fans in the crowd, filling the modest Metro dance floor. From the moment Clinic opened with “Tribal” and cascaded into “Pet Eunuch” from Walking with Thee, concertgoers were in a break-neck trance. The set included one of Turney’s favorite songs, “Porno.” He describes it as a “rhythmically hypnotic song with a sound that shows a sort of a different side of the band.” The show included some of the vital tracks from Internal Wrangler like “Evil Bill” and “2/4.” Predominantly, the band played the newer stuff like “Walking with Thee,” “Welcome,” and “Mr. Moonlight.” It all came together to produce a differently angled exhibition of songs from both albums.

Obviously, as one can assume from the elusive and well-guarded stage presence the band tries to create, there wasn’t much banter from lead singer Ade Blackburn or any other member of the band. In fact, the only phrases uttered by Blackburn were “thanks very much,” “cheers” and “goodnight.” In many ways, the anonymity was refreshing. Too often, bands try to get you to like them because they’re nice guys or think you’re a great audience. Clinic comes out and powers through its songs and is able to clearly pour its heart into the music behind somewhat ghastly costumes.

The opening acts don’t pursue aesthetics and anti-personas like the members of Clinic do. Before the Liverpool quartet busted on stage, the Apples in Stereo warmed up the crowd with pop-based retro guitar rock. They sound a little bit like the Beach Boys and early Beatles would sound if they grew up on garage rock. The songs are all very sunny but never seem small and fragile. However, none of their songs hit you with a serious edge that can give a more fulfilling experience. The Apples are on tour with Clinic in support of their new album Velocity of Sound.

The Standard was the first band to come on stage and play to a rather sparsely populated crowd. Nevertheless, the instrumentation and musical direction is ear-opening. The Standard possesses a real knack for incorporating atmospheric keyboards with guitar melody and heavy drumming. The lead singer, however, is perhaps the least capable of capturing the sound that everyone else in the band wants. His voice isn’t quite strong enough and his banshee-like screeches never give the songs anything special.

With a new record on the way from Clinic and a recently issued effort from the Apples in Stereo, we surely haven’t seen the last or the best of both of these bands. Time will tell if they can gain the relevance that they proved they deserve at the Metro.