Bob Burnett: I've been pretty much heavy rotating The Clean's September release "Mister Pop"since it came out. All praise must go to WFMU DJ Maria Levitsky. I was streaming one of her Wed. afternoon shows and there it appeared--the unmistakably fresh sound of New Zealand's The Clean. Merge Records, is currently streaming "Mister Pop" so I suggest hitting the link and listening in yourself--and of course don't take advantage of their generosity; get it on cd, mp3 or FLAC directly from Merge.
Other Music's Dave Martin also spoke highly of "Mister Pop" in a review that sums it up nicely:
"The Clean are now into their third decade as a band and while there has been a lot of downtime in that span, they still managed to draft the blueprint for the sound that came be known as indie rock, and what I would consider some of the best music ever made, ever. The on-again, off-again status that the Kilgour brothers and Robert Scott have maintained over the last two decades seems to suit them very well. These days it appears that their strength is in their lack of ambition beyond self-satisfaction. They don't expect to unveil another "Tally Ho" and you shouldn't either, but they do make music that hits the perfect balance of familiar and new, and if that doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement then you are reading it wrong. On the whole Mister Pop drifts by in a wonderful psychedelic haze but the more you listen the better it gets.
Kim Kirkpatrick: The Clean's first EP Boodle Boodle Boodle was released in 1981 on New Zealand's Flying Nun Records. If (at the time) you were following the current punk, post punk, rock of England and America The Clean was relatable and utterly refreshing at the same time. Historically this release from The Clean boosted and supported the growth of the label and consequently brought the world New Zealand's vibrant "do it yourself" musical scene that was Flying Nun Record's punk/pop/noise. "Billy Two" was a gleeful jolt of a song, with it's powerful acoustic guitar, punk in it's energy and pop with it's oh so fast and fetching catchiness. "Anything Could Happen" started with the prettiest of slow paced 12 string strumming, then a loping bass joined in and the song twisted towards a country saloon performance (Stones circa Beggar's Banquet). "Point That Thing Somewhere Else", an electric, muscling surf/psych sound, driving and pulsing like The Velvet Underground or a possessed version of The Ventures. In retrospect the approach and attitude of these three songs prove to be the blueprint for all that was to become The Clean. One could also link these songs (+" Tally Ho") with all of Flying Nun's various bands to come. Musical connections and line up crossovers within the New Zealand/Flying Nun scene abound. A worthy 2 CD compilation of The Clean is available from Merge Records and Bob reviewed it back in January of 2008.
The Dave Martin review of Mister Pop that Bob posted should send you in pursuit of this music, and of course the fact Bob bothered to write about it is reason enough for most of us to give it several spins. As for myself, I'd say Mister Pop is a must own, a masterful collection of songs that function best in their entirety. We all know how rare and precious such a find is in musical recordings. I could list all the styles touched upon, do a dreaded checklist of related bands, but seriously just give it a listen. You will hear the links, make your own connections and come away wanting to listen again and again to Mister Pop. It has great diversity from track to track yet fits together comfortably. It rocks, jangles, and even manages to produce an instrumental that organically crosses Cluster/Neu with Nick Drake! Throughout Mister Pop the band produces a warm, friendly performance, and the lyrics are playful but often carry an underlying poignancy. And The Clean still play tune after tune that will keep resurfacing in the canyons of your mind long after you turn off the stereo or remove your earbuds. The musicians that play together on Mister Pop are settled into life, matured, and can take a song, a solo, a tone, in any direction they want with ease. On Mister Pop every song is natural, homemade, and just perfect. And The Clean manage to reproduce this like you are in the room with them.
Here's a link to a David Kilgour release I wrote back in February of 2007.
Bob Burnett: I couldn't agree with Kim more--and what a terrific connection he made about the song "Tensile" as being Cluster/Neu/Nick Drake. I'm listening to "Moonwalker" right now and am amazed at the raga-rock nature of the vamp they create. A floating "Baba O'Reilly" experience with a gentle, even tempo--The Who meets Cul de Sac. I find this album to be a transformative iPOD experience. Can't recommend it enough.