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CD review - The Clean 

by Mike Corrigan

In certain circles within the indie pop underground, the name of the New Zealand band The Clean is invoked with a reverence usually reserved for the most almighty of rock 'n' roll deities. There's a good reason for this. The influence of The Clean on post-punk is considerable, particularly in New Zealand where it's downright immeasurable (members of The Clean are everywhere in the tangled NZ garage pop family tree: see The Chills, The Bats, Bailter Space, etc.). At a time when hardcore and pop metal were gaining dominance in the States, The Clean were making a minor splash down under with their beautifully jagged guitar-driven pop shards.

Their early stuff (dating all the way back to 1981) was primitive, melodic and decidedly lo-fi (most of it recorded in home studios with basic 4-track equipment). Blessedly, two decades later, not much has changed. Put it down to a pure and singular vision or the result of two decades of almost complete commercial failure, but the band today sounds just as edgy and engaging to my ears as it did when its Flying Nun label albums first hit the US shores in the mid '80s.

Getaway (sporting the classic lineup of brothers Hamish and David Kilgour on drums and guitar and Robert Scott on bass) is quiet, even pastoral at times, with enough divergent textures to suggest that The Clean has, over time, absorbed influences from the very bands it has inspired (Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley even lend a hand on a few tracks). But there's plenty of growl and sizzle here too, as on the hypnotic opener, "Stars," and the closer, "Complications."

For those who have heard the rumors but never the band itself, Getaway is a fine introduction (and readily available too, I might add, as much of The Clean's back catalog is now, regrettably, out of print).
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