Formed in 1978 in Dunedin, New Zealand, the Clean started with two self-taught musical brothers, Hamish and David Kilgour. The band's first single, "Tally Ho!", was a warm invitation to the aesthetic of the group and their peers in the Dunedin scene, a do-it-yourself, punk-inspired cache of bands. The song appropriately kicks off this wonderful career-spanning double disc collection. The single was so catchy--all Velvets echo-guitar strum split with subtle pastel-colored flights of organ--that it shot into the New Zealand Top 20. It struck a few chords for independent music-makers around the world, placing its imprint Flying Nun in the hearts and eardrums of underground fans everywhere. Thus began the on-again, off-again career of the group, with several albums and tours peppered with bits of inactivity. The group gradually created a sound that would influence scores of bands, such as Pavement and our very own Superchunk.
Along with the Kilgours' drums and guitar, there are brilliant bass lines, many originally by Robert Scott. His deep anchoring rhythms are thrown down like the thick ropes used to moor ships, fat bottom-end lines that ground all the frayed, electric guitar signals around them.
Though not all material here is essential, none of it is dismissible, and the great ones are oh-so-divine. Draw a line directly from the spoken story and scattered guitar noise of the Velvets' "The Gift" to Dunedin with the live version of "Quickstep." "Point That Thing Somewhere Else" connects the dots between the Clean and their most devoted disciples, Yo La Tengo. With forty-six cuts in all, this collection most importantly covers all the early, impossible-to-find singles and outtakes.
The Clean's early cut, "Getting Older," is telling. Applying their dark humor toward the expected norms of rock band longevity, the soaring song is a huge stunner because of its frankness in the face of such a real obstacle for musicians. Robert Kilgour plays trumpet and viola alongside a mammoth guitar and rhythm section, as the song roars with the Kilgours announcing "You're getting older and you don't know what to dooooo/ Why don't you do yourself innnnn?" Thankfully, members of the Clean haven't--they remained essential and prolific.