One of Clinic’s bad habits is frontloading records with the best songs at the top. One of their good habits is learning from their mistakes. While the Liverpool foursome has been swimming down the same vein of post-punk psychedelia for 15 years, the band understands how to challenge and constantly redefine its strengths. On Free Reign II, a remix of 2012’s Free Reign, Clinic flips the album’s track list and hands mixing duties over to Oneohtrix Point Never’s Daniel Lopatin. The album serves as both a sturdy companion piece to Free Reign and a testament to the fact that even veteran musicians don’t always get it right the first time.
The flow on Free Reign II surpasses Free Reign‘s original jumble. This time, “See Saw’s” squirmy chords and melodica bleats toll as climax rather than preamble. “Sun and the Moon II” and “Miss You II” spread tension at the top that’s blasted apart by the album’s bottom four. By the time “Done and Dusted II” stomps in a tenth track that didn’t feature on 2012’s Free Reign the album is smoothed over by a satisfying internal logic.
Lopatin’s hand creeps like black ice over Clinic’s lanky post-punk, sharpening edges that were buried in the mud on Free Reign. But even though it’s been reversed and reinvigorated, this rendition hardly differs from the original. Jammy blurbs like “Cosmic Radiation” still feel accessory, and on certain songs, Clinic’s original mixing remains superior. Busy, scaly noise chokes out the lifeline of “Seamless Boogie Woogie”, which loses much of its warmth and affect in Lopatin’s sinister rendering.
Free Reign II improves upon its predecessor and offers a welcome glance into the usually opaque process of assembling an album. It also proves that we’re living in a time of freer dialogue between bands and their fanbase: a time when artists can easily re-wrap their work and say, “sure, that was okay, but try this.”
Essential Tracks: “Miss You II”, “See Saw II”