guess the ultimate test to determine once and for all if a band’s records all sound the same is to listen to the songs they deemed unfit for the homogeny of the true albums. Yup, the songs on outtakes/b-sides warehouse Funf share all the dirthouse production values, helium-angst vocals, and damaged garage-sale instrumentation of everything else Clinic’s ever done. In fact, it plays like any other release in their catalogue, albeit with slighter track lengths. Funf only sounds like an antiquities shop on occasion, like instrumental “The Majestic,” but even that could’ve snuggled in just fine on 2004’s bone-dry Winchester Cathedral if “Vertical Takeoff from Egypt” was any indication.
The problem with a Clinic b-sides album is that the band’s skittering tunelets usually sound like outtakes already: “Pet Eunuch,” “D.P.,” and “Voodoo Wop,” would’ve made just as much sense on Funf if not more than say, the plinking ghost-blues of “Christmas,” or the Quasi-like organ-drilling on “The Castle.” Even the band’s biggest hit, “Walking With Thee,” with its hilarious writer’s block refrain (a blown-out organ going DUNDUNDUNDUNDUNDUNDUNDUN while singer Ade Blackburn fails to think of something to say and can only respond with the a surprised “No!”), sounded like something the 13th Floor Elevators would’ve scraped together with the last remains of paid studio time to finish off a 45. Clinic’s slightness is their charm, however, and their least sophisticated album, a fantastic mess called Internal Wrangler remains their most loved.
Having sort of settled into middle-of-the-road cult band territory with the roundly ignored and markedly more “produced” Visitations this year, Funf is the rare b-sides clearinghouse that can be seen as a last-ditch attempt to find critical glory again. Not that critics don’t love the band—it’s hard for our vinyl-blown brains to resist a mishmash of parodic Thom Yorke, trashy organ, melodic jams, and kinder-grade electronica—but I’m pretty sure no one’s been “excited” about a new Clinic record since 2002.
And that’s a little sad, because the band’s made plenty of enduring music since then, as well as firmly adhering to a sound that no one else makes. Winchester Cathedral had plenty of songs that sounded exactly like “Welcome” off Walking With Thee, and then Visitations’ “Gideon” sounded exactly like Cathedral’s “The Magician,” with only the klezmer-hora riff transferred from a melodica to spooky falsetto vocals. These microscopic mutations have barely inched themselves out of their comfortable niche since Internal Wrangler, and in this context proves especially relieving. With the psychobilly “Magic Boots,” sludgy voodoo wop, “The Scythe,” and the hardcore hoedown “Nicht,” Funf proves a slightly harder-rocking collection only marginally less worthy of garage-collector assimilation than any other Clinic. In fact, if they’d added another 15 minutes worth, they could’ve passed this off as a new album.
Reviewed by: Dan Weiss
Reviewed on: 2007-09-14