I don't have a (like, one) favorite band, and on of my guiding philosophies in life (along with "Rightists are always wrong" and "mmm... bread is good") is that people who have A SINGLE FAVORITE BAND are
a. not paying enough attention to the world, and
b. not spending enough (time or money) on records, and
c. are ig'nant.
If I did have a favorite band, it would be the result of a bloody fracas between several totally legitimate contenders, knuckle-bruised veterans of my stereo who have witnessed the rise and fall of my fickle affections, one of whom would have broken bones and emerged bloodied and torn-of-tee-shirt, wiping someone else's effluvia from his jeans, and would say, "IT IS I."
That could conceivably be The Clean.
Seriously, those guys have the chops to mince the competition. True, they're not that prolific as The Clean, but between that trio's output and the sum of their parts, they pretty much could knock Prince out of the water, and could probably draw up neck and neck with John Darnielle.
And then there's the wealth of bootleg material...
Today, however, we shall briefly discuss the disc that's in my machine right now, which is the brand-spanking-new Clean record, Mashed.
This is the first of two (TWO! I just peed myself...) records expected this year from The Clean, the later one is the long-awaited new studio album (it's been seven years since Getaway), and Mashed is a live album from the New Zealand leg of the "Bangers and Mash" tour. Shamefully I had to order this from an online store in New Zealand because it's not (yet?) available in the US. That makes me hurt. Merge should have been all over that puppy, or Matador, or whoever, right? I think the studio album will be coming out on Merge, based on something Bob Scott said in an interview, but to my knowledge they haven't (yet) picked this up--maybe they'll do a two-for-one.
It's actually really hard to get anything out of the antipodes these days, and one can only hope that when Scott's other band, The Bats, releases their upcoming studio album later this year (peed again) it'll have a US distro deal (I mean, I'll probably order it directly from the band, but everybody should be lining up at their record stores for anything from either of these bands). Fortunately for the human race (particularly me), David Kilgour's gorgeous recent release (The Far Now, 1997) was released (as well as other DK stuff) by Merge, as have several of Hamish Kilgour's Mad Scene records. Incidently, I just got DK's brilliant second solo album Sugar Mouth, from 1994, and while it's very different from The Clean (less irreverent, less punk, more indie-rock-progenitor), it's worth tracking down, if nothing else than for "No, no, no" the opening track.
Returning to Mashed, though, the recording is (appropriately) crisp and clean, and the idiosyncracies of the band's shambling, improvisational sound is allowed full reign. Always impressive sonically, considering that there's only ever three guys (when playing live), The Clean barrels through a edgy but necessarily minimal selection of their back-catalogue, with 1981's "Anything Can Happen" from Boodle Boodle Boodle (incidently, you need to see the video), Robert Scott's lovely lead on "I Wait Around" from 1990's Vehicle, "Safe in the Rain" from Modern Rock, 1994, and a kick-ass version of Lou Reed's "I Can't Stand It" (the opening of Reed's eponymous solo debut from 1972--a totally underappreciated classic, it's much harder than the glam-flavored and more-known Transformer), a really nice choice of cover for The Clean, as Reed/the Velvets were clearly a deep influence on Scott and the Kilgours, breaking out as musicians in late-seventies Dunedin.
The record totally rocks. One listen down, countless more to follow.
Can't wait for new studio, the appetite is well and truly whetted.
Also, for anyone deeply interested in this band, check out the snippets of them in a breathtakingly stripped-down show at a New York record shop. I wished (in vain) that some of this would be on Mashed, and if anyone out there has a copy of the show itself, PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE send me a copy. I would be eternally grateful.