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Clinic Plays The Casbah

UK band Clinic in their signature surgical masks.

Above: UK band Clinic in their signature surgical masks.

The proliferation of bands and the diffusion of the audience leads us to the question of "how popular are certain bands, anyway?" I read recently that The Hold Steady sold seventy-something thousand of their first three discs... TOTAL! In the vast cosmic scheme of things that's like, nothing. And yet they get airplay.

Which brings us in a roundabout way to the Liverpool-based band Clinic. Their first album, 2000's "Internal Wrangler," is considered by some a minor classic, with its strange diversity of styles - everything from scorching instrumentals to Eno-like reverie, an occasional soprano sax and child-like vocals. The cover is great, too, evoking the classic Atlantic jazz albums of the 50s and 60s. They are on a reasonably large label (Domino), they've toured the US a number of times, yet how popular are they? Ten years and five albums later, they're still around.

The cover of "Bubblegum," Clinic's latest album.

Above: The cover of "Bubblegum," Clinic's latest album.

They dropped their latest, "Bubblegum," last month. The consensus seems to be that it's a slight mellowing of the Clinic sound. I'll admit I haven't heard the previous four and this one does seem quieter than "Eternal Wrangler." There are more acoustic guitars, some really nice wah-wah effects on a lot of the songs (I'm a sucker for wah-wah) and a stillness that recalls the third Velvet Underground album.

As a live act, they wear surgical masks (I have no idea why) and are supposed to be very energetic, very entertaining and play short sets. Should be an interesting show this Sunday at The Casbah.

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