Record Review - 4 December 12 2001

This must be what they mean by meta. The highest of the many high points on Liverpool quartet Clinic's perfect Internal Wrangler (the group's second album, and the first to be released in America) comes at the climax of "Distortions," a buzzing, soaring ballad two-thirds into the album. Over a tinny beatbox and thin organ drone, vocalist Ade Blackburn dolefully beseeches, "Free of distortions/Free of distortions."

It's a wish for a life less complicated, and — here's where the meta comes in — it comes in the middle of an album whose sonic calling card is the trebly fuzzbox guitars of songs like "C.Q." and "Hippy Death Suite."

There's lots of musical cross-referencing happening on Internal Wrangler, from "The Return of Evil Bill" and "T.K." calling to mind a three-way sound-clash between Augustus Pablo, Ennio Morricone and Wire, to the Hammer horror organ (via Bernie Worrell's more macabre Funkadelic work) of "DJ Shangri-La," to the doleful Velvet Underground-ish ballad, "Earth Angel."

And it's hard not to think of Radiohead — albeit if that combo were a punky surf-garage band with a more fully developed sense of musical mischief, not to mention rhythm. True, it's not really singer Ade Blackburn's fault that his beseeching voice resembles that of Thom Yorke. But his mincing whine comes across with a sneer at nearly every turn — the engaging, even cute sneer of an 8-year-old with a Mohawk and leather jacket — as opposed to Yorke's like-it-or-not weight-of-the-world moan. When Internal Wrangler's 32 minutes are up, there's nothing to do but hit repeat and experience it all anew.