Clinic are one of the current highly-hyped "rock revival" bands.
Heck, even Radiohead claims to like them, so they must be pretty
I had never heard their music, but they were playing with The
Departure Lounge, who released a wonderful
instrumental album last year. I was really curious to see
how The Departure Lounge would translate their slow piano-based
music to the stage. Having the chance to see Clinic was just
an added bonus to me.
First up, however, were local rockers The Close. I had seen
them play before, and found their brand of keyboard-driven bluesy
rock to be quite pleasant.
I had always thought that this band was a four-piece, but on
this night the female keyboardist/vocalist played on less than
half of the songs. She would play a bit, then disappear off
the stage, and the rest of the band would play energetic rock.
Quite frankly i found this to be a mistake. Her vocals add
an extra depth to the band. Plus, her keyboards provide a good
counter-point to the guitar rock. Without her, The Close were
just another Atlanta rock band, playing fast songs with a mixture
of blues, punk, and a little bit of country.
Not bad, but not spectacular.
After The Close's set, The Departure Lounge set up. It took
forever -- 40 minutes! And i have no idea why. It is not as
if the sound guy was running around checking cables. The band
all seemed to be there, so they weren't waiting on anybody.
I dunno -- i guess that they just didn't want to go on before
Anyway, The Departure Lounge are a four-piece band of older
British guys. Leader Tim Keegan played acoustic guitar, and
there was a drummer, a bassist, and a guy who played guitar
Sadly, this was not the instrumental set i was hoping for.
The Departure Lounge were on tour to promote Too Late
To Die Young, their latest album, which features vocals.
In fact, on this night every member of the band sang at different
The music was lovely, if unchallenging, pop music. It worked
really well in a live setting, although they weren't really
doing anything that you haven't seen before. The sound was reminiscnet
of Robyn Hitchcock, or XTC, or "insert name of British pop artist
They were also very personable -- chatting with the crowd and
generally creating a very positive atmosphere. I really enjoyed
their set: for British pop music, The Departure Lounge do it
very well. I think it's because they are all older, more experienced
There was no whopping great intermission this time. Instead,
Clinic took the stage very soon after The Departure Lounge left
it. And by then, The Echo Lounge was packed! And yes, Clinic
do in fact wear "doctor's scrubs", complete with masks, to perform.
I don't get the whole "funny costume" thing. I know people
who really like that sort of thing, but i just don't understand
it. Why? It seems like a lot of hassle to go through. Then again,
you couldn't really see their faces, so they could have been
wandering through the crowd beforehand and i wouldn't have known.
Maybe that's the point...
Anyway, Clinic opened with a really nice tune featuring a clarinet
and rib-shaking bass samples. The drumming was quite good too.
However, after that one tune i found them to be surprisingly
un-original. Their sound is very generic rock in the vien of
"bands influenced by The Rolling Stones". There seems to be
a lot of that going around these days -- from The
Strokes to Black Rebel
Motorcycle Club to ..... etc etc. It just seems that i am
hearing a lot about "great, old-fashioned rock bands" these
days, and all of them seem to be very derivative of The Rolling
Not that this is a bad thing -- i love The Stones as much as
the next guy. What bothers me, however, is that although Clinic
were able to replicate the sound adequately, it seemed sterile,
lifeless. There was no soul to the music -- it seemed as if
they learned it in a textbook somewhere. As if they took a class
in being in a rock band, and they learned what to do and how
to do it, but being a rock band lacked deeper meaning than that.
What was so great about The Rolling Stones is that they had
soul. Keith Richard's playing was passionate -- he used that
instrument to express his frustration and loneliness. You can
still hear the aching emotionality in the records of their music.
Listen to Paint It Black and just feel the paranoia and
angst in the guitarwork.
That's what made The Stones so great. And even though Clinic
can sound a lot like them, it seems as if they are sounding
like The Stones for the sole point of sounding like The Stones.
They aren't saying anything -- they are playing "rock", and
that's how you do it.
Quite honestly, i was stunned. This was hyped? Didn't people
understand that it was all formula and no meaning? Alas, the
crowd really seemed to be getting into it -- dancing in place,
smiling, and cheering loudly between songs. But again, this
had the feeling of "that's what you are supposed to do at rock
shows". It all seemed so blatantly unsincere to me.
Now, in all fairness to Clinic i have listened to some recordings
since this show, and i find their recorded output to be more
varied, less derivative, and more "alive". However, live they
seemed to be just going through the motions. Everyone seemed
to be doing that.