There are certain bands that Levitation Magazine get very excited about and Clinic are definitely at the top of that list!! Therefore, it was a true pleasure to be able to review their latest album Fantasy Island due to be released, via Domino, on 10th October 2021. So what should the listener expect from this the band's ninth studio album?? Well, according to the band's spiel they have broadened their sonic palette, added several new gadgets and taken references from the likes of Brautigan, H.G. Wells and McLuhan stating the album to be an exploration of themes such as time, music and entertainment. So here is our review!!
The opening track The Lamplighter begins with a fairly gentle but jaunty beat followed by synth pipes that step happily through a simple progression. A wash of sound reminiscent of the sea carried on the wind enhances the atmosphere bringing to mind hot, still, summer evenings; baked, on some imaginary beach... Then, in a reflective mood, Ade Blackburn's vocals drop in; the melody tantalisingly sparse as the narrative unfolds. Gentle acoustic guitar-strings subtly refine the ambiance whilst the synth reverb builds consequently flowing into a rolling chorus that features a fantastic harmonica sound. The mood changes; the guitar stepping forward with an enigmatic chord-progression as Ade leads us through the sleeping city streets, his lyrics dreamily phasing in and out. The whole track is drenched in nostalgia, with soft, plaintiff chords seeming to suggest just a tinge of regret.
A warm ringing of the electronic keyboard sets the stage for the retro-futurist gourmet experience that is Fine Dining. On this track the bass-drum punches you calmly back through time into a dreamy, almost New Romantic, soundscape. Then, as the bass pulses purposefully, Ade as maître-dis, leads us to our table with cheerful bonhomie. The band's intelligence and humour through their lyrical content is omnipresent for example when the line "...clip on your tie" is whispered as if preventing a potentially embarrassing faux pas. Or maybe it is just a bit of ASMR?! Then, as the track comes to a sumptuous end you are compelled to press replay!! A definite favourite for Levitation Magazine.
Next, Take A Chance begins with a scratchy snare skipping through a pared-back bass and keyboard bounce. The vocals/lyrics enticingly inviting us to peek into a jar; the melody evoking images of fairground freak-shows, rigged games and cheap thrills. The verse gliding into a chorus driven by the atmospheric warmth of vintage keyboard. The overall tone being theatrical, languid and eerily fragile. We love it!!
Refractions (In The Rain) presents as a clap-along call to arms for 'the people that play the music'. Opening with a wonderfully jarring intro, the melody sachets along to a satisfying nodding beat. Then, just at the point when the listener is feeling the cyber-punk disco bar vibe, they drop a chorus that can only be described as kaleidoscopic. The piece progresses through another chorus and into a complete breakdown that somehow drops seamlessly into the third verse; morphing into an intense collage of overlaid sound that finally brings the track to an end. Yet another favourite!!
Next, Dreams Can Come True which has a lilting, almost lullaby, quality to it. The soothing vocals are backed by a sustained synth tone; the rhythm essentially provided by a simple, waltzing piano-line that is later picked up by the bass. Meteoric swooshes of sound enhance the rarefied atmosphere. The whole track has a swaying, ethereal feel; like the slightly disoriented state of mind you experience upon waking in the middle of the night.
To describe Miracles the listener should imagine an Eastern melody with 'spy-theme' chords, intertwined with a gentle clopping beat, carried forth through an exotic desert landscape of electronica. The lyrics are sincere, the delivery measured: 'I see you for who you are and never for what you're not' stands out and sets the tone nicely. The track is quite minimal but without feeling spartan allowing the warmth of the vocals to prevail and perhaps gives a nod to the likes of Suicide.
On The Other Side... begins with an incantation in Latin; with harp strings and bells building as the piece cross-fades into a yoga workshop dialogue. A gentle pulsing beat is introduced then a saxophone drops a sultry riff into the mix followed by some congas as the rhythm becomes more structured, counterpointing the sonic deconstruction of the melodic elements. The resulting effect is steamy 60's raunch set to a trap beat. The track progresses into a diminishing breakdown as the yogi entreats us to close our eyes. There is a moment of tranquillity, then the whole mass of sound returns; the saxophone now off the leash. But all too quickly, the gong is struck.... and it is over. ...Namaste.
Next, the title track, Fantasy Island is one of those songs that becomes an earworm for your day!! The drums own this one. Although it also features some likely synth sounds, distorted vocals, a chirpy flute and even a theremin!! As the track bounces through choruses it creates a textural swirl of sound which spirals on and on... Okay, then we come to I Can't Stand the Rain What's this??
Ann Peebles 1974 slice of soul dynamite re-worked as a lounge-core floor-filler?? You decide!!
Feelings is an absolute gem of a track being mysterious, sensuous, rich and smooth.
The proceedings kick off with a really strong eight beat baseline that immediately hooks you in. Next, the vocals drop into the mix, languidly describing some recalled scene, as sparse guitar licks tastefully embellish the melody. As the track continues the backing vocals reinforce the transition to chorus being as reverberant as the rhythm is fused and polished. Then at a mere 2.22 minutes it's over ...so press the replay!!
On first hearing the production on Hocus Pocus, the penultimate track, we were blown away. The audible space that the music occupies is huge. A strong keyboard intro sets the scene perfectly then as the vocals drop in the piece settles into a subtle droning psychedelic-loop. On this track, the lyrics and verse structure are ambiguous and hypnotic and although not particularly complex, the piece is enigmatic and strangely narcotic. A subtle wind machine and popping synth-drum take us through the bridge to the third section that reiterates 'Summer sun and freedom. Just enjoy the knees up!' Life's for living, play it loud!
So to the final track, aptly named The Grand Finale, it opens with a flourish of slide guitar that punctuates an ambling throb of bass. The rhythm, almost subliminal, is accompanied by an acoustic guitar which cheerfully leads the listener through this evocative and breezy number. There is a reflective quality throughout the delivery of this track that may suggest it to be a metaphor associated with leaving this mortal coil or the end of an era or maybe we shouldn't read too much into the music we listen to.
Overall, this evocative collection of idiosyncratic delights has a way of re-kindling memories of long-forgotten musical treasures. Not through derivative or blatantly nostalgic means but through the more subtle magic that draws you into this atmospheric, warm and genuine offering. Indeed, the whole album is noteworthy in more ways than one making it a must for anyone who wants to buy real music. Therefore, Levitation Magazine gives this album 10/10 and highly recommends you pre-order your copy now!!
1. The Lamplighter
2. Fine Dining
3. Take A Chance
4. Refractions (In The Rain)
5. Dreams Can Come True
7. On The Other Side…
8. Fantasy Island
9. I Can’t Stand The Rain
11. Hocus Pocus
12. Grand Finale