Is it possible to destroy the world with a drum machine? Can a simple bass tone create a frenzy of energy strong enough to demolish the very notion of what it means to perform pop music? To anyone present when Clinic took the stage on Friday, April 5, the answer is a resounding “yes.”
Ascending toward the stage of the North Star Bar amid the pulsing intro of “Come Into Our Room,” Clinic filled the room with an infectious, manic demeanor. Hiding their faces behind surgical masks while donning identical OR scrubs, Clinic attacked their songs with the restrained madness of a demented collective bent on reviving the decaying corpse of rock and roll. Using their costumes to remove all sense of familiarity from the performance, these four deranged songsmiths forced the audience to take notice and heed warning; Clinic is here, and they’ve come for your music.
Using organs, samples, woodwinds, guitars, and their own haunting vocals, Clinic constructed a towering wall of sound, impossible to circumvent. Whether they were careening through the rabid six-string attack of “Pet Eunuch” or imposing the hushed paranoia of “Walking With Thee” upon an unsuspecting audience, Clinic captured the imagination as they performed what could very well be described as the Pop Music of End Times.
Clinic worked every trick and sneak attack to its full effect. Every song sounded as fresh as the day it was recorded. Nothing was lost in the transfer from studio to stage. The blistering organ of “2-4” tore through the venue with all the rabid vengeance of a wild animal who has developed a taste for blood. Clinic commanded attention while never crossing into the realm of misdirection; there was a disturbing purposefulness to the performance. The throbbing dance beat of “Welcome” was pounded out with such unrelenting precision and malice that the listener was left with an odd sense of relief once the song was over.
Leaving out the banter usually presented by bands of an equal level, Clinic rarely addressed the audience. Aside from the occasional “Thank you” or song introduction, they seemed to be oblivious to any presence other than themselves. Lost within the effort of their performance, the band wasted no time launching from one song into the next.
They completed their set without ever losing pace. Even the laid-back swoon of “Mr. Moonlight” came across with a certain level of hurriedness. The music was driving and forward, forcing the band and the audience to keep up, or be overcome by the wave of sound and fury.
The complex musical arrangement of “The Second Line” was the most captivating moment of the performance. Each member of the band completely immersed in the rhythm and focus of their parts, the desperate jargon of the vocals and the shuttering backing beats, all came together in one uniform performance.
Some would accuse Clinic of offering up an abbreviated set. Admittedly, the exclusion of certain songs was questionable. “Harmony” would have fit well within the set list, and the instrumental “Hippy Death Suite” is a welcome addition to any concert. However, in a short amount of time, Clinic took control of the stage, of their music, and of the audience in a manner not often witnessed in the world of rock music. With a set and presence so powerful, Clinic does well to remove certain songs. The world might not be ready to handle another second.
Robert James Algeo can be reached at Nategray1@aol.com