In the early 1930s, one of Blackpool’s oddest ‘draws’ was an exhibit known as ‘the vicar of Stiffkey in a barrel’.

Harold Davidson was a Church of England clergyman who, via a series of unseemly misfortunes that included his over-enthusiastic desire to ‘save’ young ladies of London’s West End, ended up as a sideshow attraction for the millions of holiday makers who flocked to the North West every year. The vicar of Stiffkey displayed himself inside a barrel, fasting himself for two weeks on the Golden Mile as a kind of public penance. Later, he locked himself in a refrigerated chamber and then a roasting pit, being prodded in the arse by a mechanical devil.

Blackpool in the 1930’s was at its apogee. By the 70s it was a rotting façade, plagued by unemployment, slum housing, and the economic effects of the flight of British holidaymakers abroad. Even today, Blackpool bucks the social trend with depressing frequency. GPs in Blackpool sometimes whisper the name of the main driver behind the town’s current struggle against mental and physical health problems – Shit Life Syndrome.

Clinic’s latest album posits itself squarely in the centre of the 1970s club circuit to which Blackpool played host in its unofficial role as ‘Manchester On Sea’; the racist, sexist, closed-minded world of Bass Pale Ale, Embassy ciggies and tight-fitting polo shirts on fat men with big moustaches and bald patches. It has the cheap glitz of Blackpool’s South Pier; the sexual menace, self-loathing and shame of reverend Stiffkey. On ‘D.I.S.C.I.P.L.E.’ the band seem to diagnose the whole sorry decade with SLS: "Wednesday was a shit day/ Wednesday was a shit day/ Every day is a shit day."

But Wheeltappers and Shunters (named after Bernard Manning’s TV comedy show) isn’t as depressing as all that. The band have always inflected their tracks with violence; Ade Blackburn’s hair-lipped delivery has changed little since the early EPs. They’ve also been promising us a party album for quite some time, so I guess this is what passes for that.

Clinic's last album, 2012’s Free Reign, took them off into space with their nimble, stripped-down production aesthetic, adding more wah-wah and Seeds-esque wig outs. Wheeltappers and Shunters holds onto some of the psych while simultaneously dialling up the atmospherics and fuzz. Lead single ‘Rubber Bullets’ trades on the band’s signature Casio melodies and 808 beats with a cabaret slouch. Most tracks are sub 3 minutes - tender little portraits in gaudy felt tip.

And, on the whole, Clinic’s paean to the 70s is a satisfying reinforcement of the current, clichéd view of that decade. It is lovingly put together. It yearns to experience an age that is tantalisingly close, but entirely out of reach.

Except - as the events of the past couple of years show us - weak, vacillating governments struggling to make themselves relevant while racial suspicion and poverty stalk the land is not a closed book for Britain and abroad. We’re living that reality now, despite how far away the smoking ban has made the Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club feel.

Britain in 2019 is perhaps as shameless and deluded as ever, fifty years on. Clinic revel in the dark irony.