CLINIC

Bubblegum, the mind-blowing sixth album from Clinic, is exactly 40 minutes long. Usually, long-players by this most extraordinary British band clock in at a clipped half-hour. That makes an extra 33% of murky psychedelic/punk excellence. But there’s a little more to it than that. This one comes from another planet, baby. Here’s why.

Clinic – singular, ambitious, revered by fellow musicians – forever sound like no-one else but themselves, because no-one else could even begin to sound like them. Since the tail end of the ’90s, they’ve beamed in other-worldly psychedelic-pop transmissions from their own parallel dimension (geographically, it’s in Liverpool, but…), each with a vibe and quality consistent with its predecessors, oblivious to passing trends.

For Bubblegum, Clinic busted out a completely new creative system. "In the past," says Ade, "songs would normally start from rhythms, and we’d build it up from there, always keeping an eye on what the drums were doing – a percussion thing. What changed this time is, we approached it more in a songwriter way – what the chords were, and what the melodies were – and put everything on top of that."

"When we’ve done gigs in the past," says Ade, "it’s always seemed like the songs are really short, and you’re racing to finish them before you’ve even really started. It just felt good to be doing something now, even just in the studio, where you’re thinking, We’re actually PLAYING it, and it’s not all breakneck speed. There’s a bit of room to breathe. Being slower, it makes the songs a bit longer, too, and it’s that extra 20 or 30 seconds that makes all the difference."

One factor in Clinic’s evolution was their working with a producer, for the first time since 2004’s Winchester Cathedral. The man in question, John Congleton, was suggested by Domino boss Laurence Bell, inspired by his warmth-bringing wizardry for, among others, Bill Callahan and Okkervil River. Since Winchester…, Blackburn & co have been self-sufficient in their Liverpool hideout, always creating tracks as sound experiments, i.e. as self-producers, anyway. But perhaps it was time to break from their isolationism, and let in some light from outside.

The result is an album still drenched in lysergic sap, but gentler and sexier, populated by intoxicating sirens named Elaine, Evelyn and Linda ("with Linda, you’ll get high as a kite") and by the seductress in the spoken-word track, "The Radio Story", where Clinic’s photographer Jason Evans narrates a blurry-edged tale of anonymous erotica. With the different musical strategy, Ade found himself writing differently: "In the past, I could get away with surreal and esoteric stuff; this time, they had to have more of a personal vibe, maybe twisted relationship stuff." So: Bubblegum speaks to you, one-to-one.

To broadcast their reinvention, the band will unleash a puppet-based promo video for "I’m Aware", directed by Pete Fowler, and will be playing some select dates, doubtless in ER scrubs. And the plaudits will keep rolling in. Since they debuted on their own Aladdin’s Cave of Golf label with the legendary "IPC Subeditors Dictate Our Youth" 45, the band have been embraced by numerous top-flight artists, touring with celebrity fans as diverse as Arcade Fire, The Flaming Lips and Radiohead, and appearing at Meltdown Festival at the behest of curator Scott Walker. They were also nominated for a Grammy for ’02’s Walking With Thee.

Clinic are still Ade Blackburn (voice, guitar, dulcimer, etc), Brian Campbell (bass, backing vocals, etc), Hartley (guitar, clarinet, etc), Carl Turney (drums, percussion, etc). They are still the business.