Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Drone Zone: The Clean, "Point That Thing Somewhere Else"

Fans of obscuro 80s indie rock speak of New Zealand's The Clean in hushed, reverent tones, and rightly so: they were basically the Southern Hemisphere's Velvet Underground, the godfathers of the immortal Flying Nun label, and purveyors of purified guitar strum. They formed in the late 70s and originally made only a couple singles and a couple EPs before disbanding, and their records were perennially in the "OOP" category. The Clean reformed in the late 80s and continue to make records every few years, rarely aiming their plow too far from their groovy furrow, which consists of tremendously catchy and occasionally ominous noisy guitar riffage.

The goods folks at Merge Records made life much easier when they released the 2-disc collection Anthology in 2002, which gathered up all their seminal early studio material on disc one and scattered later highlights on disc two. Unfortunately, though, a Complete Clean has yet to be compiled, and fanatics will have to search pretty hard for casual lo-fi gems like their live Live Dead Clean EP, the scrappy, sloppy fun demos on Odditties, and the even harder-to-find, cassette-only Odditties 2. How about a box set, Merge?

Given the title of the aforementioned live EP, the Clean seem to have an ironic relationship with classic rock, and I have a strong suspicion that the title of their finest song, "Point That Thing Somewhere Else", is in fact obscure record trivia. On the back cover of Jefferson Airplane's 1969 hippy manifesto Volunteers, the newspaper-style liner notes feature the band members' snide responses to the question, "What is your favorite stripe on the flag?" Grace's response, "Point that thing somewhere else", fits well on an album which satirizes conservative America with its anthemic countercultural songs and not-too-patriotic album cover. The title is about the only thing the Clean nicked from Grace Slick, as the song's menacing riff and eerie, hypnotic groove bears little in common with the Jefferson Airplane, instead sounding more like a surf rock band covering Joy Division.

This song, originally on 1981's Boodle Boodle Boodle EP, has almost gotten me speeding tickets on three separate occasions. I recommend that you play it very loud, and preferably in a car. If you want more, there are several live versions (on their many live albums) which show the band taking their best song and giving it hell onstage.

The Clean, "Point That Thing Somewhere Else":

And as a special treat, here's a spooky dub version from Odditties.

The Clean, "Point That Thing Dub":

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