It seems as if the whole world has been looking to Clinic to pull rock 'n roll out of the gutter and restore it to the level of global prominence it once enjoyed -- which, amidst a sea of Britneys and boy bands, is no easy task; even Radiohead, the current figureheads of the new rock renaissance, seem to be pointing folks in their direction. As if that weren't enough, Clinic have the added pressure of being the anchor act in Domino's new North American venture. And then there's the pressure of producing their next full-length while not falling prey to the axiomatic sophomore slump. So while life in Clinic is good these days, their success has come with its share of trials, tribulations, high expectations and hangers-on.
It would be na´ve to assume that the dizzying events of the last twelve months wouldn't take their toll on these four Liverpudlians. Therefore, it shouldn't be at all surprising that Walking with Thee sounds like nothing so much as a grandly obtuse gesture from a band with everything to prove -- not only to the musical world at large, but to themselves.
Sure, songs like "Pet Eunoch" (sic) sound like an amphetamine-fueled crossbreed of Pixies power-fuzz and bastardized Velvets licks, but this time around there is a decidedly darker edge informing the band's outlandish garage rock muse. For proof of this, we need look no further than the lulling "Mr. Moonlight", which could be one of the greatest almost-ballads of all time; Ade Blackburn's extraterrestrial tenor blazes a delicate path that the rest of his bandmates gingerly follow, anticipating its stunning finale. "Sunlight Bathes our Home" and the chilling opener "Harmony" (which steals its opening riff from disco anthem "I Feel Love") are driven by the ghastly complacency of the band's homemade weapon of choice, the "psychedelic box", and are all the more fascinating for it. "The Vulture" and "Welcome" certainly wouldn't have sounded out of place on Internal Wrangler, but their inclusion here is a stroke of genius; suspicious bossa nova grooves and ghastly melodica lines hint at a past the band dare not revisit, and a future they await with no small amount of trepidation.
But for all of Walking with Thee's obvious musical accomplishments, its most impressive facet is the ability to transcend all the hype, hoopla and haranguing surrounding its release. That the band were able to ignore their own PR blitz and create a record of such remarkable depth and limitless character is truly a testament to their abilities as musicians and songwriters. The refracted sound of derangement has seldom sounded more compelling.