Friday, August 14, 2015

Record Store Day, Part One: Drone Missives

It’s statement to my inability to be in the moment that I’m only getting around to Record Store Day - held back in April - here in mid-August. I’d say it was because I had a life, but you already know I don’t.

It was a beautiful spring day, but I waited on line like all the other nerds for the right to spend time in a small dank crowded space. After twenty minutes or so, that right was granted by the nice young man at the door, and I did my best to maneuver between the aisles without being noticed and pegged as someone’s dad.

I typically visit Other Music to check out their very respectable Used CD section, where I act like the musical Statue of Liberty, taking other people’s rejected records. What I forgot was that on Record Store Day, they move that old crap out of the way so they can make some real money.

With vinyl. Lots of vinyl. Well I’m not interested! My turntable is in the basement and I only play the old records when I got down there. So get this: the old geezer clings to his CDs and doesn’t want to go to that new fangled format - vinyl. The irony is not lost on me.

So the selection was limited (meaning limited to regularly priced items that a cheapskate like me would be unwilling to buy) and although I did my usual pick up of five possible buys, I also did my usual put them all back because none of them quite made the grade.

But then, at the last possible second I made a snap decision.

Clean Anthology.jpg

The Clean Anthology

I thought the chances were good that I’d love this record since it was exactly a year before that I’d gotten their record Vehicle at this very same store during last year’s Record Store Day. That album sounded great right off the bat, lit up my springtime and had amazing staying power..

Some anthologies aim to provide only the best songs of an artist. Others try to paint a fuller picture, showing all aspects of an artist’s development, phases and styles.  This one is of the latter variety, which makes for a great overview, but perhaps a less successful sit up and listen record. At least at first.

That first impression confirmed that I already had many of their finest moments on Vehicle both as a great record in and of itself and with its bonus cuts of live versions of some of the best things from Anthology. I feared that I already had everything I’d ever need in Vehicle, and Anthology would prove superfluous.

So it took a while for this one to work its magic.

Goofy amateurs, they start out crude - the bright opener "Tally Ho!" could have been brighter if they just played it faster - slowly finding their way to their sound. But by cut three the awkwardness drops away and what's left is the droney slight weirdness that is the Clean. Thank god for that strumming guitar and those driving drums.

Each track is it’s own little droney world, so this is not as good as Vehicle for active listening, but excellent for doing things around the house.

And they just wear me down. Track after track (46!) of sometimes raw, sometimes sweet guitar. It’s all quite modest, really.  In attitude at least. And a little more appealing that the screech and yawl of Kleenex/Liliput -
that other forty something cut retrospective I got a couple of years ago.  

None of them great singers, the Clean are at their best keeping things going, mid-tempo or faster.
I really admire how they manage to unearth so many of these little nuggets of sound. I’m not always convinced there’s an actual song behind each one but that’s okay.  

I do recall some of them like I would from a half forgotten dream that nonetheless leaves me uneasy. I guess that counts as a bad dream and maybe even a bad memory. But it makes for good music.

Peaking at the beginning of the second disc with - what else? - highlights from Vehicle, where the guitars are sharpest, the singing the most impassioned and the tunes the most balanced. The quality begins the trail off slightly after that, just like it had built up over the preceding CD. As the second CD goes on they get more conventional and when the go weird it just doesn't have the same zing of the first CD. Not bad,  mind you but you do notice some drop off.

So it's a fuller picture of the Clean, warts and all.  Not with the concentrated  power of Vehicle but a nice leisurely tour through their history both before and after that lofty peak.

At first it’s all too much of an okay thing. It goes on to become quite a lot of a very good thing. Fun but not life changing.  That’s okay. Not everything is. B+

"Two Fat Sisters"

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