Fri March 22
"I think an edginess is one sort of thing we'd like to maintain. Even if a song's a bit bawdy, it still retains an edge," starts Brian Campbell, bassist for moody, surgical-mask-wearing, Liverpudlian dance band Clinic. "That's very important to us, because if you can retain an edginess, it's something that you can't just switch off."
Clinic keeps their edge sharp by smashing the lowest fidelity, pared-down punk into its pure polar opposite: disco. Theoretically, it could be a recipe for disaster--or new wave, at the very least. But Clinic is full of anomalies, letting duality and volatility pulse through and propel their songs. Their vocalist, Ade Blackburn, sings easily, steadily, but through clenched teeth, as if his nerves are being rubbed slightly during every line. Their keyboards pulse tensely against the drive of guitars, and the drums keep dance-and-disco steady. They sound vaguely futuristic, yet the band uses no computers (and Campbell says the youngest instrument played on their newest record, Walking With Thee, is from 1968). Clinic steps cooly along the line.
"We always work to make sure that we sound completely different from anything else that's going on at the time. But also, I think it's just because the four of us listen to a wide range of different types of music. Put together two different types of music that, on paper, shouldn't work, and it becomes more of a challenge," notes Campbell. "I think we're like working within contradictions. Black and white putting them together."
And then there is the issue of Clinic's referentiality. In many of their songs, there's a familiar melody, but it's so up front and tasteful, it doesn't feel as if they're stealing lines. For example, "Harmony," off their new record, cops the distinct bass line from Donna Summer's great, heated disco hit, "I Feel Love."
"We were listening to a lot of Donna Summer at that time, I think, and as far as not letting your influences show, I think subconsciously they'll always come through. It's not a complete ripoff, it's more of an homage and a Giorgio Moroder sort of thing, as well," says Campbell.
Which, of course, means Clinic's drum beats and groove are at the forefront of their music. But they put a spike in the idea of being a dance band--rather than the exactness of bass and drums, keyboards and great rhythms, what inspires you to dance is rooted in their humidity, their tension. It's their nervous edge, vitality, or maybe
"I think it's almost anal-retentiveness," Campbell says. "We always want to make sure that the music is credible. The day it stops being credible or vital, I think that's the day we have to pack in."