Returning with a new album following a seven year hiatus, Liverpool’s experimental, post-punk outfit Clinic release their eighth studio album Wheeltappers and Shunters on May 10th. Taking its title from a 1970’s British variety show The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club, the show televised the smoke filled world of Northern England’s Working Men’s Club scene. Immortalized in Peter Kay’s comedy classic Phoenix Nights.
Seeking to neither abase or aggrandize the culture in which Clinic’s creative hub of Ade Blackburn and Jonathan Hartley grew up around, Blackburn explains “It’s a satirical take on British culture – high and low. It fascinates me that people look back on the 1970s as the glory days. It’s emerged that there was a darker, more perverse side to that time. When you look back on it now it was quite clearly there in mainstream culture.”
Indeed, Wheeltappers and Shunters eschews the romanticized Biscuit Tin vision of the British Empire marketed by the Brexit architects. Instead evoking the grimy underbelly of the end-of-the-pier, like Albert Finney on a Butlin’s break. The opening bell of the album inviting you to step right up!
“It’s been a pisstake thing between us for quite a few years. Whenever we’d talk about a song sounding too ‘cabaret’ or too nice, we’d say, ‘That’s a bit Wheeltappers and Shunters’.”Ade Blackburn
The throbbing beat and space aged flange of Laughing Cavalier butts up against the sampled tourism advertisement for ‘The Pleasure Capital of Britain, Blackpool‘ in this dark, danceable first track. Which invites the Cerebus Syndrome to close in on the album. There’s a continuum into the infectious march of Complex which questions the idealized visions of an England past.
Rubber Bullets has a rockabilly guitar riff with a synthesized pulse that rises with Blackburn’s accusatory call of “Neanderthal”. While Ferryboat of the Mind takes a more laid back surf guitar tone.
The throbbing, off kilter beats return with Mirage before becoming more frantic and The Fall-like in D.I.S.C.I.P.L.E. with Blackburn’s vocal taking a Mark E. Smith tone while declaring ‘Everyday is a shit day!’. Fly Fishing beckons you towards the glowing wonderland but invites you not to look too hard at the peeling veneer of happiness.
“We thought it felt right to make a fun, dancefloor album in these dark and conservative times,”
There’s a sonic cascade on Rejoice! A Christmas Carol Clinic style. Before the etherial theremins give way to the claustrophobic closer of New Equations (At The Copacabana). Where if feels like the red velvet is closing in on you while and the fetid fat of the chicken-in-a-basket scolds your lips.
Clocking in at just over 28 minutes, Wheeltappers and Shunters reminds me of Dark Side of the Moon. Where every track stands up alone, yet weave together on the album as one sonically sumptuous suite. Recorded last year in Hartley’s Liverpool studio, Wheeltappers and Shunters was mixed by Dilip Harris (King Krule, Sons Of Kemet, Mount Kimbie) and together they have created a brilliant, stand out record. One that proves this three decade old alliance still bristles with new ideas.
Wheeltappers and Shunters will be available to buy on Dom-Mart exclusive vinyl (opaque red vinyl and 12×12” photographic print), standard vinyl, CD and digitally.
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