Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Clinic, Shearwater @ Troubadour. Los Angeles. May 20.


After two consecutive years at the Troubadour, it seems Clinic's fan base isn't getting any bigger, and though a larger core would be well-deserved, it's only fair, I suppose, that consistency on their part garners consistency on the part of their audience.

They're still hiding behind surgical masks, though if you look closely at their hairlines and face shapes, you can recall who's who if you'd caught a glimpse of them unmasked while they checked on their instruments pre-performance. This time, though, they'd grown bored with scrubs and opted for uniform Hawaiian shirts – you know, 'cause surgeons like to go on vacation, too.

Ade Blackburn's still got a paranoid, Yorkian, halfway-intelligible slur about him, but bassist Brian Campbell offered nary a beaming smile from under his mask this time around, thereby removing a certain warped element from the visual. The strange thing about Clinic is that while their records aren't terribly different from one another – songs vary, but overall moods and noise levels remain the same – watching the band live really brings out certain elements of their style. It's when they're on stage that one more easily notices how prominent a part the melodica holds (played by Blackburn), or how quick Jonathan Hartley actually is on guitar. They're an underrated bunch, that Clinic.

They played new record Do It! in its entirety, following the set with a bitty intermission and old favorites, the most well-received being “Walking With Thee” and rather “Jack the Ripper”-ish “Pet Eunuch,” off 2002's Walking With Thee. They were also surprisingly tame after a dramatic opening set by Shearwater, whose Jonathan Freiburg recently quit Okkervil River in order to pursue Shearwater full time, and whose drummer Thor Harris packs a mean punch on hammer dulcimer.

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