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March 26, 2007 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

The Clean

San Francisco Bathhouse
Friday March 16

There aren’t many things that get me quite as hot under the collar as an impending Clean reunion show. I mean, come on, ‘Slug Song’? ‘Beatnik’? Recruiting Ira and Georgia from Yo La Tengo to play on Getaway? These guys are absolute gold.

Friday’s ‘Bangers and Mash’ gig was stunning. Luke Buda and his band got things off to a great start, engaging the sellout crowd with their solid pop sophistication. Buda’s well-established stage presence and unique approach to song writing always makes for a good show, and the crowd were amply warmed up by the time everyone’s favourite Dunedinites took to the stage. The Facial Expression Award for the night must undoubtedly go to Buda’s drummer.

Honestly, at times he had this extreme rapture/agony look on his face, sorta like he’d just bitten into the tastiest éclair ever made whilst simultaneously having his nether parts mauled by a bear. Great drumming, though.

The Clean gave a marvellous performance, delighting us with their time-tested mix of jangly melodic guitars, pulsing bass-driven drums and sparse drifting vocals. Blazing into their set with the blistering minor-key ‘Fish’ from 1982’s Great Sounds Great E.P., The Clean cast aside any doubts about their cohesion as a group after their five-year hiatus. They still play their distinctive blend of kiwi garage-pop and instrumental rock tight and loud and it’s a joy to behold.

From here on The Clean ran through, in the words of bassist Robert Scott, a “sort of potted history” of their sound. Belting out older favourites such as ‘Billy Two’ alongside more recent material such as ‘Too Much Violence’ from 1994’s Modern Rock, they demonstrated how much more smooth and warm their sound has become over the years, whilst still retaining their original distinctive fuzz-rock roots. I’ll be surprised if anything I see this year comes anywhere near rivalling their astounding performance of ‘Point That Thing Somewhere Else’.

The Clean are luminaries of New Zealand music. They’re just as crucial to our scene now as they were in the early Flying Nun days, perhaps even more so.

Should you find them playing in your neck of the woods, be sure to get yourself a ticket. Failing that, grab a copy of Anthology and jump around to the ridiculously infectious pop glee of ‘Tally Ho’.


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