Since exploding into life about nine years ago, this Liverpool quartet released a brilliant debut, "Internal Wrangler" in 2000, toured with Radiohead, and appeared at Scott Walker's Meltdown. In 2002, their second album, "Walking With Thee" earned them a Grammy nomination. Described by NME as "a stunning return to form", this release sees the band work again with Gareth Jones (Interpol, Nick Cave, Depeche Mode). Clinic are distinctive in the way that The Fall, The Residents, or Missy Elliot are distinctive - it's hard to mistake their sonic fingerprint for anyone else's, yet because they keep exploring the outer limits of their thing, they always sound fresh.
Few contemporary rock bands have the sonic vision of this Liverpool quartet, who blend a stylistic propulsion akin to Joy Division with the ambitious scope of Ennio Morricone, complete with the Italian film composer's penchant for melodica and fuzzy surf guitars. The results are both agitating and oddly comforting. Their loveliest tunes, like the vocal-choir ditty "Animal/Human," pulse with dark keyboard undertones and dischordant clangs of autoharp. Even at their most rigorously experimental Clinic cling to '60s roots. In "Children of Kellogg" they contrast sandblasting guitar and jittery cymbal smacks with blithe melodica, and an easy-listening interlude (think Mantovani) gets shattered by the sound of sawing wood. If that's not enough to signal their sense of humor, consider titles like "If You Could Read Your Mind" and their habit of playing gigs in surgical scrubs. Although not quite as towering an achievement as 2002's Grammy-nominated Walking with Thee, Visitations
keeps Clinic at the tip of modern popular music's shrinking creative vanguard. --Ted Drozdowski