Clinic’s “Harmony”

“Harmony” is a curious little track from English act Clinic, who I’ve read wear surgical masks and robes when performing live. Kinda on the nose, yet weird enough to count me interested. Anyway, I know little-to-nothing about these guys. But this whimsically off-kilter track just caught me by surprise.

It starts with a tubular bells-like rhythmic backing that reminds me of an old John Carpenter film score, maybe “Halloween III” or “The Fog.” Then this harmonica kicks in, sending the whole thing in an anxious spiral of off-scale chords and weird vintage keys. It’s kinda like a bizarre ’80s bluegrass horror score filled with zippy propulsion and wobbly urgency.

I’d leave it at that. But then the scruffy vocals kick in, courtesy of frontman Adrian Blackburn. He’s got one of those acidic, nasally gruff deliveries that you’d typically find in a more mainstream indie act that’s popular with all the cool kids. Here, under this pretext, his voice assumes a slight sense of melodic menace, skating along this glassy rhythmic drive with sharp-eyed synchronicity. In fact, the whole track tends to slosh and sync together like a fluid flume of liquored sound and backhanded fury.

“Harmony” was release back in 2002 on the album “Walking with Thee,” which was Grammy nominated for Best Alternative Album. Typically, in my world, that would send up red flags everywhere. But I’m giving the LP a listen as I’m writing this, and it actually ain’t half bad. It’s different from “Harmony,” a little all over the place, yet still on that weird side. It kinda conjures thoughts of topsy-turvy blues rock with splashes of trippin’ psychedelia, filled with noisy guitars and grinding organs. It’s certainly listenable, and repeatedly so.

From what I can tell, Clinic went silent around 2013, after the release of “Free Reign,” which continues, and quite possibly concludes, the sonic collage of kaleidoscopic strangeness. I’m not sure if they broke up or not. Nothing on the internet seems to indicate such. Either way, I’m good with stumbling upon “Harmony” and all its quirks, as is.

It’s refreshing to find something that’s not like the others. And that’s definitely “Harmony” in a nutshell, not fitting too comfortably into any of the categorical slots, while still remaining an invigorating, exciting alternative oddity. Check out Clinic’s “Harmony” for yourself and allow its peculiarities to sync with you.

“Harmony” from the 2002 album “Walking with Thee.”