The Clean's pre-eminent place in Flying Nun lore comes down to two factors - their unchallengeable position as the band that started it all 21 years ago, and the group's absolute dedication to free-flowing chemistry and musical experimentation in the pursuit of creating incredible records.
The importance of the former and the influence of the latter over a huge stream of musicians in New Zealand and around the world ever since cannot be under-estimated.
Plus there's the small fact that no other Flying Nun band has thrown so much variety at a tape recorder and seen it all stick.
Hamish and David Kilgour formed The Clean back in 1978. Hamish played drums, David picked up a guitar and figured out how to play it as he went along.
Various other folk passed through the Kilgour brothers' band through the first two years or so before Robert Scott joined on bass. Hamish, David and Robert all wrote songs and they all sang. The Clean made their first recordings for Flying Nun in 1981.
The first of Anthology's two discs features tracks from the band's early recordings for Flying Nun - two 12" EPs, two 7" singles, a perfectly-titled cassette of 'Odditties' and a (somewhat premature) posthumous live EP called 'Live Dead Clean'.
These are the songs that set Flying Nun out of the blocks at a pace that bewildered the label's founder Roger Shepherd to the point that he remains a man with a permanently bewildered air about him. They are the songs that made student radio and student flats the most fun places to listen to music in the 1980s. And they are songs that still ring with infectious clamour twenty years on.
'Anthology' kicks off with The Clean's call-to-arms debut 'Tally Ho'. The track simply sounds like the stuff that legends are made of, and indeed the story of its $60 recording bill has long passed into Flying Nun lore.
From there, the hits - 'Billy Two', 'Anything Could Happen', 'Beatnik' and 'Getting Older' - and live favourites, like the almighty 'Point That Thing' and instrumentals 'Fish' and 'At The Bottom', all serve up memories of the joyous noise that was The Clean of that time.
These recordings were mostly made by the band, with Chris Knox and Doug Hood at the helm of the trusty four-track for many of them. They capture the bright, raw sound of a classic garage band - but luckily one that could also knock out great tunes. They had fun songs and they had funny songs too.
Disc One shows The Clean skipping deftly from guitar-drone epics to off-kilter psychedelic pop tunes and experimental fragments of song. The second disc in the 'Anthology' set sees the band working those same veins in song with an even more varied musical palette.
The Clean had broken up around 1983 (for about the tenth time, some say) with David particularly tired of the pressure of their relative success. The band wasn't back together again until they met up and played a show in London in the late 'eighties.
In between time, Robert Scott had started (The Bats, David and Hamish Kilgour played in The Great Unwashed with The Clean's original bassist, Peter Gutteridge, before Hamish headed to New York (where he still resides) with Bailterspace and David started a band called Stephen.
That London reunion show led to a New Zealand tour and then The Clean's first world tour. Back in London in 1989, they recorded their first full-length album for UK label Rough Trade and Flying Nun back home. 'Vehicle' was made in three days and engineered by Alan Moulder (later to become one of the top producers of the alternative era, recording the Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails and My Bloody Valentine).
The sound of 'Vehicle' and the albums which followed it make up the bulk of Disc Two of 'Anthology' - 1994's 'Modern Rock' and 'Unknown Country' from 1996 - saw organ and other keyboards planting more of the grooves as The Clean mixed bouncing pop tunes with continued experimentation.
The seven 'Vehicle' tracks here, all kicked along by Hamish's awesome metronomic beat, include some of the band's surest pop moments in tracks like 'Drawing To A Whole' and 'Big Cat'.
Six songs from 'Modern Rock' change the pace somewhat. While 'Do Your Thing' is a classic work-out for David's guitar, The Clean get comfortably downbeat on songs like 'Outside The Cage', 'Safe In the Rain', and the oddly affecting 'Too Much Violence'.
'Anthology' offers up four strange little rarities over its next tracks - two songs only released on an American 7" and two that appeared as a bonus flexi-disc with the 'Modern Rock' LP(there's also a bonus rarity for fans on Disc One in the form of an unreleased version of 'At The Bottom'). 'Ludwig' is a mad triumph of some sort, we're just not quite sure exactly what.
The last seven songs venture into 'Unknown Country'. The band is almost back in instrumental riff-riding territory of old with 'Wipe Me, I'm Lucky' and the keyboard wipe-out of 'Chumpy'. 'Balkans' is an adventure into quasi-ethno forgery and 'Twist Top' closes the 'Anthology' on a bang-on pop high.
The Clean released yet another great album in 2001 titled 'Getaway', but tracks from that album will have to serve as an opening to the band's second millennium 'Anthology' set.
The Clean story is on-again/off-again purely by design - it suits the trio's creative desires and keeps them clear of the machinery that threatened to interfere with that process from the moment they threatened to get awfully popular awfully quickly twenty years ago.
Salute The Clean's goodness on 'Anthology', but most of all enjoy their music again and again. That's what it's there for.
Robert Scott (bass)
David Kilgour (guitar, vocals)
Hamish Kilgour (drums)
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RE: The Clean Tour News
Posted: Wed Jun 4, 2003 10:36 am
North American fans of New Zealand music legends The Clean need to make sure they check their dates of their tour with Yo La Tengo happening this month. The Clean will be working their way from New York across the northern US to Vancouver, and then south to LA.
The tour culminates in the Matt Groening (from The Simpsons fame), curated LA leg of the renowned UK/US music festival 'All Tomorrows Parties' (ATP).
This year ATP also includes The Breeders, Coldcut, Jah Wobble, The Fall, Throwing Muses, Wire and Mogwai.
The Clean Tour News
Posted: Mon Apr 28, 2003 11:42 am
American and Canadian fans of NZ music legends The Clean will be pleased to hear the band are doing a North American tour in June, playing alongside New Jersey's finest underground heroes Yo La Tengo. The tour culminates in the Matt Groening curated LA leg of the UK/US music festival 'All Tomorrows Parties' (that section of which this year also includes The Breeders, Coldcut, Jah Wobble, The Fall, Throwing Muses, Wire and Mogwai).
The Tour Dates:
(all but first gig with ATP and Yo La Tengo)
Wednesday 4 - Knitting Factory, New York
Friday 6 - Majestic Theatre, Detroit
Saturday 7 - Riviera Theatre, Chicago
Sunday 8 - First Avenue, Minneapolis
Monday 9 - First Avenue, Minneapolis
Wednesday 11 - Venue TBA, Denver
Friday 13 - Showbox, Seattle
Saturday 14 - Crystal Ballroom, Portland
Sunday 15 - Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, Canada
Wednesday 18 - Fillmore, San Fransisco
Thursday 19 - Fillmore, San Fransisco
Friday 20 - Fillmore, San Fransisco
Saturday 21 - All Tomorrows Parties, Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles
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