Think for a moment of Clinic not as a band, but a brand. Eschewing individualism, these Liverpool gents have successfully established a uniform identity (period costumes, surgical masks) and an identifiable sound (arty-punk surf guitar, spitting vocals, piles of fuzz peppered with psychedelic effects on obscure instruments). Clinic is more like a machine, pumping out a sound that, while distinct, has come to be expected. When it first burst on the scene in 2001 with Internal Wrangler, the band’s collision of jungle rootsiness, railway yard punk, and tropical dreaminess demanded immediate attention. Walking with Thee proved it could expand on that sound, but not by much. And by Winchester Cathedral, fans hoping for anything new or compelling largely gave up.
That said, Visitations is being heralded as the second coming by these arty punkers, partially because of the reunion with producer Gareth Jones, who made his mark on their debut. While the return to immediacy is welcome, it happens within the well-worn parameters of their already defined sound. The raucous jangly punk of “Tusk” will sound familiar (see “Pet Eunuch”), as will the swanky midnight melodica vibe of “Paradise” (see “Mr. Moonlight”), and the chugging surf-guitar of “If You Could Read Your Mind” (see “Internal Wrangler”). Those who already subscribe to the Clinic brand will find these songs apt additions to the band’s canon. If you don’t, then don’t expect to find anything to make you change your mind.