It's hard to overstate The Clean's influence, in a career spanning over 30 years they are arguably the go-to band of New Zealand's "Dunedin" sound. That they sold out both Rough Trade and Glasslands last week is testament to their enduring popularity; I caught the show at Rough Trade on Thursday.
Their set leaned towards longer, guitar-driven jams, rather than the short and catchy jangle pop with which casual observers may be more familiar (even Tally Ho turned into an extended jaunt). The band have never been the tightest unit in the world, which is certainly part of their charm, but did seem a little under rehearsed with many songs coming to a sudden or unnatural end. Regardless, there were many highlights including the fabulous Getting Older.
Bassist Rob Scott (whose band The Bats are also highly recommended) is the steady hand that keeps things from going too far off track, while current New York resident Hamish Kilgour's almost languid drumming style is hypnotic in its own right. As an aside, Hamish's new band, Roya, opened the show at Glasslands on Friday but I have yet to see them (Roya also features Rahill Jamalifard of Habibi).
I've had the pleasure of seeing The Clean four times in total over the years; twice in London and twice in New York (where, as a British person I can sympathise with the Kiwis for being mistaken as Australian). David Kilgour has been making noises recently about how this might be the beginning of the end for the band. From an interview with The Quietus:
...funnily enough this jaunt coming up in the US feels like some kind of last hurrah-style adventure, albeit on the road, but I've said that before. I haven't felt like making any new Clean music deliberately in a studio for a while...
While The Clean haven't produced anything since Mister Pop in 2009, David Kilgour has released a steady stream of equally good solo material over the last 20 years and has a new album on Merge Records called End Times Undone. The record contains some finely crafted jangle-pop for which he is known, but it is the Crazy Horse-like guitar fuzz of Down the Tubes and Dropper where the album excels.
The show certainly didn't feel like they were saying goodbye, so hopefully if they do decide to call it a day we'll get another send off. With the re-emergence of the Flying Nun record label in New Zealand, coupled with their partnership of NYC label Captured Tracks, it's an exciting time for newcomers to acquaint themselves with a scene that can rival any other. Perhaps there is no better starting point than The Clean's newly re-issued Anthology.