The CLEAN – ” Mister Pop ” 2021 Reissue

Posted: March 26, 2021 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
Tags: , , , , ,

In 1978, The Clean were the seeds of New Zealand punk. In the years since, they have carved out a big sandbox for everyone to play in, and their influence resonates not only in NZ but around the world. A group that thrives when free of expectations, The Clean’s Robert Scott, Hamish Kilgour, and David Kilgour are, as Tape Op described, “a casually wonderful band.” This is a double reissue on the Merge Records label from The Clean’s ‘Unknown Country’ and ‘Mister Pop’ on vinyl. Originally released in 1996 and 2009, respectively.

The Clean have always exuded a casual grace that suggests they’d still be making the same records even if no one was listening, employing the same set of devices ramshackle locomotive rhythms, buoyant basslines, swirling organ lines, and wide-smile melodies irrespective of prevailing fashions, technological developments, or geopolitical unrest. And yet, the Clean’s periodic resurgences serve as a reminder that, in a world of uncertainty, there are still some things you can rely on.”

David Kilgour on Mister Pop: “Mister Pop began in Brooklyn, NY, at Gary Olson’s Marlborough Farms studio and was completed in the basement hall of First Church Dunedin. There is more synthesizer on this album than the others, mainly an old Juno synth. I do remember having a bath in Brooklyn while Robert was downstairs singing and writing. I thought he was singing “he’s a factory man,” so I dried off and went down and wrote “Factory Man” while thinking heavily of The Kinks. Rainy and Geva from Haunted Love did some great work on backing vocals for “Loog” and “Dreamlife.” And old friend and longtime Clean collaborator Alan Starrett makes an appearance on “Moonjumper.”

Robert Scott on Mister Pop: “I remember thinking at the start of the NY sessions with Gary Olson, “Is this the start of a new album?” We were coming up with quite a bit of new stuff, and of course, Gary is great to work with. We carried on at Burlington St in Dunedin with (engineer and Heavy 8) Tex Houston at the controls, good fun from what I remember, lots of mucking around with keyboards and synths. We were going for that Krautrock groove and we sure got it on “Tensile,” one of my faves along with the pure pop of “Dreamlife.” “Loog” was a fun song to put together. “Asleep in the Tunnel” is written about being stuck in traffic in a tunnel under the Hudson River in NY.”

There are two notable moments of self-indulgence here, namely the hypnotic and repetitive buzzdrone of “Moonjumper,” which sounds—aptly, given the format of this re-release—a bit like a persistently skipping record, and the insistent, trippy groove of “Tensile,” which similarly gets stuck in a rut it can’t quite get out of, albeit for a much shorter time than the former song.

Still, Mister Popis a veritable demonstration of the idiosyncratic charms of these Kiwis, and a reinforcement of their rightful place in the pantheon of quirky alternative rock. Will it spur them on to make another record? We can only hope. This reissue is a timely reminder of their influence, but 22 years since it originally came out is more than a long enough wait for new music.

Though The Clean formed in 1978, in that four-plus decades the New Zealand band has only put out six full-length studio albums. Mister Pop was the last of these, first released in 2009 but only now—alongside the simultaneous reissue of 1996’s experimental Unknown Country—finding a home on vinyl in the U.S. for the first time.

Released on Merge Records

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