mon 17/02/2020

CD: Clinic – Wheeltappers and Shunters | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Clinic – Wheeltappers and Shunters

CD: Clinic – Wheeltappers and Shunters

The Liverpudlian post-punk outfit's return is stuffed full of ideas and imagination

Before we get to the music, there’s the title of Clinic’s first album in seven years to deal with. It comes from the title of a 1970s Granada TV series, The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club, a northern entertainment revue presented by, among others, Bernard Manning. The surviving episodes of the show, with the blue dialed down for a wider audience, offer a veneered view of working men’s clubs that gently steers anything too unsavoury into the wings. As a symbol of Britain’s relationship with its past, it’s damn near perfect. 

Musically, the post-punk troupe’s return has a similar interest in the past. Not in a "peak-Blur comedy mod" way, however. There's no swanning down the road head-to-toe in Fred Perry, a cheeky wink for the old dears hanging out their washing. Wheeltappers and Shunters is a Link Wray-loving rocker with a job at the fair and a worryingly overfamiliar manner with your kids. There’s a dark heart at the centre of this collection, and it’s more likely to flytip on the village green than preserve it. 

Consisting of twelve short bursts, clocking in at under half an hour, Wheeltappers and Shunters is absolutely stuffed full of ideas and is a masterclass in how to program a song sequence. Opener “Laughing Cavalier” sounds like a paranoid “Peter Gunn” lost at fairground, and segues beautifully into “Complex”, where the rhythmic sensibility and impending sense of threat remain. The progression peaks with “Rubber Bullets”, in which rockabilly guitar lines flick ciggarette butts at onlookers from the top of gently menacing, carousel keyboard motifs. 

Elsewhere, “Complex” and “Mirage” slink off to the post-punk disco, but do so without abandoning either mood or personality. This is, in part, due the impressively coherent production throughout. Subtle echo, reverb and ingenious, playful quirks both harness and underpin the remarkably consistent energy and imagination in this collection.  

What this does mean, however, is that singling out highlights is a bit like recommending only certain chapters of a novel. That said, if you’re really too time poor to spend half an hour on it, add “Ferryboat of Your Mind”, the glam stomp of “Rejoice!” and the thrillingly evocative “New Equations at the Copacabana” to those previously mentioned.

Actually don’t. Just listen to the whole thing and shelve your other plans.


Wheeltappers and Shunters is a Link Wray-loving rocker with a job at the fair and a worryingly overfamiliar manner with your kids


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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