SXSW Records

Phases and Stages


Walking With Thee (Domino) Great albums are great from the very first note, and the first 10 seconds of Walking With Thee will stop you dead in your tracks. When that familiar, naked-bulb piano melody starts beeping to the metronomic pulse of some sympathetic machine, the pricklies on the back of your neck run for the nearest exit. Cymbals and bass pull out at a gallop, clearing a path for a wounded harmonica yowl. "I believe in harmony, I believe in Christmas Eve," intones some clenched, nasal soul. "Free from all the happiness, no one's living on their wits. Once so kind, once so wise, once so kind throughout your life. Fill yourself with dreams ... fill your yourself with dreams ... Come fill yourself with dreams." Bad dreams. That's because "Harmony" is the theme to The Exorcist. Okay, maybe it's just an icy norther whistling through Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, but its echo will blackmail you into Walking With Thee again and again and again -- if only to experience the chill of those first four minutes. Only it doesn't end there. "The Equaliser" spreads similar funhouse dread by exorcising a nursery rhyme piano fill as the percussion beats like a curse and the guitar twangs and bangs. "Welcome" posts warning with a Bo Diddley beat and psychobilly, Man in Black riff, while the title track's supersonic swagger rages with Defcon 4 organ. Whatever prozac confessions Ade Blackburn's spilling -- liner notes for both Clinic LPs are mostly missing -- one hopes there was a lawyer present; you almost don't want to know what he's confessing in that tremelous tone. The music has its own vendetta to grind. A maniacal "Pet Eunoch" and "The Bridge," dark, Appalachian stomp, might have been toss-offs, but they're murder just the same. Stripped musical arrangements buffed by OK computers replay the studio sound of Sixties nuggets like "Paint It Black" and "Time of the Season." Comparisons to Radiohead dart around Clinic like poison arrows, in part because Yorke and company are fans, but a better ID might be the black mountain goth of Sixteen Horsepower. Clinic, the second-best band from Liverpool? "Harmony" reprises its role later as "Come Into Our Room," the album basically built on a minor-key piano/harp collusion, even as one last ivory-laced pirouette acts as its antidote. This one's more dollhouse than haunted house. Not that "For the Wars" doesn't have its ghosts. They're always Walking With Thee. (Friday, March 15, La Zona Rosa, 1am)


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