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  CLINIC w/ The Departure Lounge and The Close  
  The Earl  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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Clinic are one of the current highly-hyped "rock revival" bands. Heck, even Radiohead claims to like them, so they must be pretty good, right?

I had never heard their music, but they were playing with The Departure Lounge, who released a wonderful instrumental album last year. I was really curious to see how The Departure Lounge would translate their slow piano-based music to the stage. Having the chance to see Clinic was just an added bonus to me.

First up, however, were local rockers The Close. I had seen them play before, and found their brand of keyboard-driven bluesy rock to be quite pleasant.

I had always thought that this band was a four-piece, but on this night the female keyboardist/vocalist played on less than half of the songs. She would play a bit, then disappear off the stage, and the rest of the band would play energetic rock.

Quite frankly i found this to be a mistake. Her vocals add an extra depth to the band. Plus, her keyboards provide a good counter-point to the guitar rock. Without her, The Close were just another Atlanta rock band, playing fast songs with a mixture of blues, punk, and a little bit of country.

Not bad, but not spectacular.

After The Close's set, The Departure Lounge set up. It took forever -- 40 minutes! And i have no idea why. It is not as if the sound guy was running around checking cables. The band all seemed to be there, so they weren't waiting on anybody. I dunno -- i guess that they just didn't want to go on before 11! Dammit....

Anyway, The Departure Lounge are a four-piece band of older British guys. Leader Tim Keegan played acoustic guitar, and there was a drummer, a bassist, and a guy who played guitar and keyboards.

Sadly, this was not the instrumental set i was hoping for. The Departure Lounge were on tour to promote Too Late To Die Young, their latest album, which features vocals. In fact, on this night every member of the band sang at different points.

The music was lovely, if unchallenging, pop music. It worked really well in a live setting, although they weren't really doing anything that you haven't seen before. The sound was reminiscnet of Robyn Hitchcock, or XTC, or "insert name of British pop artist here".

They were also very personable -- chatting with the crowd and generally creating a very positive atmosphere. I really enjoyed their set: for British pop music, The Departure Lounge do it very well. I think it's because they are all older, more experienced "professionals".

There was no whopping great intermission this time. Instead, Clinic took the stage very soon after The Departure Lounge left it. And by then, The Echo Lounge was packed! And yes, Clinic do in fact wear "doctor's scrubs", complete with masks, to perform.

I don't get the whole "funny costume" thing. I know people who really like that sort of thing, but i just don't understand it. Why? It seems like a lot of hassle to go through. Then again, you couldn't really see their faces, so they could have been wandering through the crowd beforehand and i wouldn't have known. Maybe that's the point...

Anyway, Clinic opened with a really nice tune featuring a clarinet and rib-shaking bass samples. The drumming was quite good too. However, after that one tune i found them to be surprisingly un-original. Their sound is very generic rock in the vien of "bands influenced by The Rolling Stones". There seems to be a lot of that going around these days -- from The Strokes to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club to ..... etc etc. It just seems that i am hearing a lot about "great, old-fashioned rock bands" these days, and all of them seem to be very derivative of The Rolling Stones.

Not that this is a bad thing -- i love The Stones as much as the next guy. What bothers me, however, is that although Clinic were able to replicate the sound adequately, it seemed sterile, lifeless. There was no soul to the music -- it seemed as if they learned it in a textbook somewhere. As if they took a class in being in a rock band, and they learned what to do and how to do it, but being a rock band lacked deeper meaning than that.

What was so great about The Rolling Stones is that they had soul. Keith Richard's playing was passionate -- he used that instrument to express his frustration and loneliness. You can still hear the aching emotionality in the records of their music. Listen to Paint It Black and just feel the paranoia and angst in the guitarwork.

That's what made The Stones so great. And even though Clinic can sound a lot like them, it seems as if they are sounding like The Stones for the sole point of sounding like The Stones. They aren't saying anything -- they are playing "rock", and that's how you do it.

Quite honestly, i was stunned. This was hyped? Didn't people understand that it was all formula and no meaning? Alas, the crowd really seemed to be getting into it -- dancing in place, smiling, and cheering loudly between songs. But again, this had the feeling of "that's what you are supposed to do at rock shows". It all seemed so blatantly unsincere to me.

Now, in all fairness to Clinic i have listened to some recordings since this show, and i find their recorded output to be more varied, less derivative, and more "alive". However, live they seemed to be just going through the motions. Everyone seemed to be doing that.

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