For most people living outside of England, Wheeltappers and Shunters are railway attendees who work in the rail yards across the globe. Of course there was also an ITV variety show in the seventies called ‘The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club’ where the latest release from Clinic takes its name. The band’s first album in seven years brings back all of the vintage synthesizers and post-punk subtleties that the band became known for. The Liverpool four piece is in rare form here, giving fans and new listeners an album that takes its time, utilizes broad strokes and throws out the notion that every song needs to be a banger in favor of songs with plenty of weight with short run times.
The beauty here is that the band gives off the impression that they don’t give a fuck what you may be familiar with, because this is after all a new album from Clinic. There’s plenty of uptempo tracks, there are songs that get out what they need to convey quickly and the end result is an album that works in this modern world while still remaining very British in how it presents itself. In twelve tracks the release stands alone in how to return after a long time away, even if you’ve been a band for over twenty years.
The opener “Laughing Cavalier” has this groovy bass line that steers the song along while the vocals come in like a spy in the corner keeping his eyes on your every move. The song almost has a neo-disco feel, but in reality it’s just re-imagined post-punk that falls on your ears in the most pleasant way. This, is essentially what makes the record stand out. The songs approach your ears in a crept up way. There’s no immediacy here at all, though the songs never fall flat.
The snippy tempos of “Complex,” the spacey gradations on “Mirage” and the lounge induced darkness of “Flying Fish” all have moments where the band’s approach is relaxed and without excitement, yet the music is still exciting. The pop stride of “Rubber Bullets” could only come from a British band and not come off as a sugary song that gets played out in shopping mall loudspeakers. The slow and groove oriented subtlety of “Congratulations” shows how the band can keep your ears with plenty of hooks without getting speedy or rushed. The album from start to finish feels like an exercise in getting to the same place without ever overexerting yourself. It may have taken seven years, it may have felt too long-but Clinic is back in a big way and they’ve figured out how to return in a way that feels like they never left.
Wheeltappers and Shunters can be streamed on all streaming platforms, it can be purchased in all digital storefronts and it can be purchased physically on multiple formats directly from Domino Records. Clinic is set to headline the Bido 100! presents: Inside Pages in Liverpool, England on June 22.
Image Credits: Photo by Rhian Askins.