Short of going the whole hog and getting The Clean’s rather more extensive Anthology (2002) set, which compiles just over two decades worth of the band’s work, this album, the very aptly titled Compilation (The Clean are nothing if not straightforward) from 1987, offers as near perfect an overview of the band’s earliest (and arguably best) output as you’ll find anywhere. Er, that is if you can actually find a copy of this album anywhere (the Anthology album having stolen its initial thunder somewhat).
The Lo-Fi darlings of the “Dunedin Sound”, as championed by NZ independent label Flying Nun Records, The Clean – with the mainstays being the brothers Kilgour, David and Hamish – is now into its fourth decade as a going concern – albeit as an on-again off-again venture; a brief mutation into The Great Unwashed (see what they did there?) and the occasional “solo” project notwithstanding.
The content on Compilation consists mainly of the band’s much-coveted early singles plus the key tracks off its now near-mythical ‘Boodle Boodle Boodle’ EP, which provided The Clean with a hugely unlikely yet still relatively sustained commercial breakthrough in New Zealand. These are the tracks that helped establish the band’s reputation as a major influence on any number of today’s Indie contenders, and the most amazing thing about these songs is the fact that they were recorded using only the most basic of technology (I’m fairly certain they are all eight-track recordings, which is quite remarkable even by early Eighties standards).
Long-time advocates of the K.I.S.S. principle of music making (keep it simple stupid), whether that was deliberate, a necessity, or purely accidental, the band’s capacity for clever lyrics, jangly guitars, and dated whirly keyboards was a little at odds with everything else going on at the time – the Eighties being more about big production, nothing lyrics, and the application of high gloss to every last living thing! The Clean however stuck to its guns, kept faith with its own modus operandi, and has largely out-lasted the vast majority of its peers. Terrific stuff from one of the best “unknown” bands the world has never seen.
I really love the fact that my copy of this album is a grotty old bedsit-quality cassette tape, one that has been suitably thrashed over the years (purchased brand new upon release), as opposed to anything remotely flash or digital. I wouldn’t have it any other way, as it fits so well with the very ethos of The Clean and everything the band unwittingly represents.
Best tracks (in order of preference): ‘Anything Could Happen’, ‘Point That Thing Somewhere Else’, ‘Beatnik’, the debut single ‘Tally Ho’, and ‘Getting Older’.