It’s commonly purported that those who are geographically isolated are much more creatively inclined than those who keep themselves within a bustling beehive of activity. The Clean, however, were instantly something of an oddity in their homeland when they first emerged in 1978; defying convention within a rock scene that was dominated by bands covering British and American music, the band singularly played their own songs, helping to create and nurture a Kiwi scene that has become synonymous with a city in the South Island of New Zealand. To this day, The Clean remain one of the earliest and prominent proponents of the widely revered “Dunedin Sound”, a lasting aesthetic that is as endemic as it is overlooked.
With 46 tracks spanning four sides of vinyl, Anthology is an extensive overview of influential but underrated Kiwi indie rockers The Clean. Still going some 35 years after forming, this collection – which was originally issued on CD in 2003 – is formed of the group’s debut single, Tally Ho, their first couple of EPs, and selected cuts from their first three LPs, as well as some early live tracks and outtakes. From the off, it’s easy to see how their deliberately sloppy (but actually well-crafted) slacker jangles influenced Pavement, the undisputed kings of lo-fi indie.
New Zealand’s the Clean is widely influential, but they feel like a mere footnote in rock ‘n’ roll history. My beaten, bruised and tattered copy of Rock: The Rough Guide, which is heavily British-centric, doesn’t have an entry on them, for one. And the Clean might be best described as a hidden treasure band, one that has spawned countless imitators, but never really found success in its own right outside of their home country.
The word “seminal” has been used so many times to describe New Zealand popsters The Clean that it’s now almost an unofficial appendage to the band name. So let’s get it out of the way. Yes, the Seminal Clean were the band that kickstarted Flying Nun Records, the little New Zealand label that could, and that was the flagship for some of the best indie music of the 1980s and 1990s.