Merge Records / US / 2014 / Box
Anthology serves as a celebration of The Clean, a band whose influence extends so far beyond their New Zealand home that even if you have never heard of The Clean before, you have surely heard of some of the bands (Pavement, Yo La Tengo, and Superchunk to name a few) who have been influenced by their unique blend of homemade garage rock, hook-filled melodies, and psychedelic experimentalism.
The album is a compilation of songs from across The Clean’s legendary musical career, which began in 1981 and continues today. Merge originally released the 2-CD Anthology in 2003, but in celebration of our 25th anniversary, we felt the time was right to release this essential collection on quadruple LP.
Hamish and David Kilgour formed The Clean in 1978. Hamish played drums, and David picked up a guitar and figured out how to play it as he went along. Various other folk passed through the Kilgour brothers’ orbit during the first two years or so before Robert Scott (The Bats) joined on bass. Hamish, David, and Robert all wrote songs and sang in The Clean, who made their first recordings for the renowned New Zealand label Flying Nun in 1981.
Anthology kicks off with The Clean’s call-to-arms debut “Tally Ho!”; the story of the infectious track’s $60 recording bill is now legendary. From there, it continues with the early EPs Boodle Boodle Boodle and Great Sounds Great in their entirety. The hits—“Billy Two,” “Anything Could Happen,” “Beatnik,” and “Getting Older”—and live favorites like “Point That Thing Somewhere Else” and instrumentals “Fish” and “At the Bottom” all serve up memories of the joyous noise that characterized The Clean of that time. These recordings, mostly made by the band with Chris Knox and Doug Hood at the helm of the 4-track, capture the bright, raw sound of a classic garage band.
After a brief breakup, the band recorded Vehicle, their first full-length, in 1989. 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 sounds of Vehicleand the two albums that followed it, Modern Rock (1994) and Unknown Country (1996), make up the bulk of discs 3 and 4 of the vinyl Anthology. The Clean used organ and other keyboards to mix bouncing pop tunes with continued experimentation.
In addition to selections from these full-length recordings, Anthology includes two songs released only on an American 7-inch and two that appeared on a bonus flexi-disc with the Modern Rock LP.
The Clean’s 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 over thirty years ago. The Clean’s modern age has seen them splitting time and hemispheres: David Kilgour has a reputable solo catalog; Robert Scott has The Bats; and Hamish Kilgour has been an endearing and enduring fixture in New York City, playing with assorted combos.