Album: Do It
There was a small sect of people that took the mixture of Eastern oms, acid tabs and fringed vests that invaded the ’60s and managed not to convert them into peace, joy and Ö you get the idea. For these tortured souls, things stayed swampy and sad, going on to form a dark arts sect of the newly enlightened culture.
It’s all there in “Do It,” Clinic’s new album. The banging drums and slanted strings could be a march of endangered elephants or a background for the type of opium den that went out of style with Cuban vacations. Tapping their cymbals and blowing into their soft flutes, Clinic seduces sound into the deep recesses of the brain, leaving it to escape drugged, confused and pretty.
Think Big Brother and the Holding Company trying to recapture the magic post-Janis Joplin and the jumpsuits and regally frizzy hair that came with her. They’ve got to rely on more than a hell-warning Joan of Arc character to carry their spook-trip of a soundtrack, and they occasionally pull it off.
“Corpus Christi” is a Sunday school song gone through a cat’s cradle of an adolescence. A driving beat and scribbling guitar solo build into a haunting dance layered with red-eyed whispers.
Other songs are zone-out candy, meant to make a long afternoon into a meditation. “Coda” uses organs and Pink Floyd-era guitar solos to spin time in a few directions.
Singer Ade Blackburn’s voice sounds like it has been plagued by peanut butter since childhood, and doesn’t try hard to compete with the majesty of the rest of the album.
Tapes ‘n Tapes
Album: Walk it Off
When Tapes ‘n Tapes recorded their debut album, “The Loon,” they were in the mental equivalent of an awe-inspiring yoga knot. Their sound was tangled and contorted, their lyrics shaken out of whatever noises came out of their mouths. They’d stop, they’d crash, they’d lament something like, “When I come back to meet the bear, the sheets are gone.”
On “Walk it Off,” they’ve stood up straight. Their songs are consistent, pleasant and no longer multiple-personalitied. You can peer through the sound and see that, at the bottom, the ground is made of ska.
The problem is that their whole essence is lost in the process. Singer Josh Grier’s voice is grizzly and sad, but the ominous intrigue of his schizophrenic word soup rants is absent.
The album is still an effective companion for a moody day, each track still musically fit. “Headshock” retains the band’s old glory, full of hair-dryer in the bathtub electricity, distortion and frantic maracas. For those new to Tapes, “Walk It Off” could act as a primer for their freshman album.
Album: Rabbit Habits
The group of gypsy-jazz guys that make up Man Man seem kind of like they came out of a dark Disney movie Ö about a cathouse. Using toys, fireworks, bazookas and possibly pieces of hard spaghetti, they make it seem like the dirt is coming out of the ground and the birds are coming out of the trees to frolick with them. But their woods aren’t the woods of Sleeping Beauty; more like the green grass of Tom Waits.
“Poor Jackie” is an eight minute, fiddle-laced tune that probably passes through a few gates of delicious, stomping, rattling hell before a chorus of weary women sing, “there ain’t no God here, as far as I can see.”
“Big Trouble” is an old vaudeville seduction that sounds like it came straight from Bourbon Street in the gas lamp days. Whining horns and shouting men go hedonist with their pain in a masochistic celebration.
There is not a moment on “Rabbit Habits” that is boring. Every song is like a fascinating dictionary definition in the language that is Man Man, a language that is only spoken in the blues.