CD Review: The Clean

Mister Pop (Merge)

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There's no denying the influence that New Zealand art-punk trio the Clean have had on indie rockers since their formation in the late '70s: Bands like Yo La Tengo and Pavement have named them as an inspiration. Their spotty output has been anthologized three times, an unusual honor for a band slightly less famous than its members' side projects (the Chills, the Bats). As sometimes happens with bands whose influence outstrips their output, the Clean's first full-length in almost a decade is pretty much a mess. After 30 years, you might expect the musicianship of brothers Hamish and David Kilgour and Bob Scott to be better than amateurish, but that's not the case. Tracks like "Asleep in the Tunnel" and the grating "Factory Man" are sloppy, and not in an endearing way. Most of the tracks, including — count 'em! — three instrumentals, feel like b-sides. When the trio are at their most tuneful, like on the swinging "Back in the Day," what made them influential is obvious. But with the bulk of Mister Pop nearly unlistenable, it's not clear what made this album necessary. Curious listeners would be better served by sticking with one of the compilations. — Chris Drabick

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