Clinic – Bubblegum (Domino Records)

Clinic’s sixth album is aimed at anyone who criticized the band for repeating themselves over the past decade. Where the Liverpool quartet is known for their spiky concoction of The Velvet Underground, Richard Hell, The 13th Floor Elevators, Can and dub, Bubblegum tears away most of the noise, revealing a softer sound that can be, dare I say, sweet. Of course, this being Clinic, it would be wrong to expect lovey-dovey songs about how much singer Ade Blackburn misses his baby. There’s still a creepy undercurrent beneath the saccharine surface, but you have to listen a little harder to find it. There’s detours into exotica, light electronica and Serge Gainsbourg-esque balladeering, which is a nice change of pace and proof Clinic aren’t a one-trick pony. However, while the band have had success with mellow songs before (see: “Distortions” from 2000’s Internal  Wrangler), an entire album of them (minus two “classic Clinic” rockers “Lion Tamer” and “Orangutan”) makes me miss the punk influences. Bubblegum is a nice diversion – perhaps even a necessary one – but hopefully not a blueprint for the way forward.