Agony Shorthand

Monday, February 23, 2004

For the CLEAN fan who has everything comes this 1994 Flying Nun collection of early leftovers, alternate versions and studio piffling. I’ve had about the majority of this on cassette for years – there were a super-limited couple of posthumous Clean tapes called “Oddities” that the band put out themselves in 1985, and it looks like this is all of the first tape (the blue one) and a couple of tracks – “Lemmings” and “Stylaphone Music” – from the second (the yellow one, though I haven’t seen that one since 1989 or so). But before you get on the horn to Flying Nun’s central ordering department, I have to caution that this one is a bit tough to ingest in a single sitting. Sure, you get the crashing kick-off “Oddity”, which is by far the best version of this quintessential noisy, joyous, hook-filled CLEAN song I’ve heard, and several other weird slices into the band’s 1980-82 mindset that’ll sit well on any of their early EPs or the “Anthology” set. But mostly the disc is as advertised – true oddities like the experimental cut-up blues homage “Mudchucker Blues”, quiet basement versions of “Getting Older” and “Hold Onto The Rail”, and barely-formed, ultimately buried practice/demo fart-arounds like “This Guy” and “Inside Out”. It doesn’t tend to burnish The Clean’s well-established, well-earned reputation the way you’d hope a collection of lost recordings might, but at the same time, we’re talking about the premier exponent of New Zealand outsider pop music here, and even their dregs beat the pants off of most everything else in the racks. I’d say graduate to this when you’ve worn the 0s and 1s off of the recent “Anthology” and simply need another big dose of Kiwi noise pop to keep your Clean buzz going.