Formed in 1978 by David Kilgour (guitar / vocals) and Peter Gutteridge (bass / vocals), and eventually settled on Hamish Kilgour (drums / vocals) as the permanent 3rd member after an assortment on configurations came and went – Doug Hood enjoyed a short tenure as vocalist, before leaving town as Toy Love‘s sound man, and Lindsay Hooke featured in several configurations.
Gutteridge was a major force in the band until artistic differences saw him leave (later forming Snapper), to eventually be permanently replaced by Rob Scott in 1980. They were at their prime when touring in the early 80’s, and the compendium of these years (entitled Compilation) documents this period beautifully.
The Clean developed what was dubbed the Dunedin Sound. A somewhat dark take on noise rock that incorporated elements of classic pop, driving rock’n’roll. Sardonic and almost creepy take on lyrics, with vocals to match. David Kilgour employed open guitar tunings and Rob Scott produced rhythmic, repetitive bass lines, that Hamish Kilgour would compliment with pummeling, primal drum rhythms (though role changes were common, all 3 members sung and played guitar) – all tinted by the Kilgour brothers penchant for psychedelic and scratchy lo-fi.
Over the course of the next 20 years, the band would go on long breaks and split a number of times for the members to form their own bands (most notably Rob Scotts’ the Bats and David Kilgour‘s solo outfits). After original single ‘Tally Ho’ shot up the New Zealand chart in 1981 – simultaneously establishing The Clean and the Flying Nun Records label that had formed around them, The Clean released the pinnacle of their recorded out – the hugely influential ‘Boodle Boodle Boodle‘ EP. The EP managed to actually better the singles success, eventually reaching number 5 in the New Zealand singles chart (astounding for an independent release in the early 80s) and remaining in the charts for a full 6 months, easily reaching gold status.
The follow up EP ‘Great sounds great, Good sounds good..‘ was another success, but by now the band were tiring of their new found fame, and worried about the effect success would have on their music. Needless to say The Clean disbanded at the top of their game in 1982 with the release of the momentous ‘Getting Older’ single (a genuine perfect pop song). It wasn’t long though before the original clean line-up (with a returning Peter Gutteridge) reformed as The Great Unwashed – a poppier and more acoustically based approach than their early recordings. The Great Unwashed never quite reached the peaks of The Clean and again they disbanded (after a mere 2 EP’s yet again), with each member going back to their subsequent side-projects.
Thankfully, throughout the later 80s and into the 90s, The Clean never really stayed apart for too long, and after a while the (now cemented) trio of Kilgour, Kilgour and Scott were back to a more permanent existence (or at least productive between variable lengthed hiatus). Their first album proper Vehicle was a well rounded example for the band, if lacking a bit of the spark from their early eps. After establishing a reputation on the us college scene in the early 90s – yet another reunion album was planned. Modern Rock came out in 1994, and was a fairly wild departure from The Clean’s signature sound, being somewhat fragmented and often unfocused. It did however show that The Clean were capable of a wider scope, with strong pop elements and less heavy-handed lyrics than its predecessor’s.
Unknown Country – which could probably be considered their first comeback album seems to divide their fans more than any of the other albums. Its poppy where their previous albums were rocky, and quirky where they had been driving and somewhat chilling. I like the change in direction, but i know a lot of other people see the album as a band caught in two minds (usually attributed to their on again / off again history).
In 1996 Flying Nun Records started work on a tribute album to The Clean as part of their own 15th anniversary celebrations, gathering together a number of the musicians that define the New Zealand music scene, as well as those that have been influenced by The Clean with their own work. Overseas artists Pavement, Guided by Voices and Barbara Manning added their own tributes along side those from not only Flying Nun Records acts, but also the likes of a number of current electronic acts and other significant kiwi artists and bands. The album (titled God Save The Clean) was a success, and the release culminated in a gigantic gig in Auckland where The Clean were joined by a great deal of the artists who paid tribute – making a great night all round, and putting The Clean back into the limelight on the New Zealand scene.
This rekindled interest may have been a wake-up call to the boys, as they quickly became a semi-regularly touring band, and eventually began focused recording again. The result – Getaway is something of a triumph, a successful reformation by all counts and an excellent taster of The Clean’s current sound, check out the full review for more detail. The trio followed up their positive press in the United States (The Clean’s releases are now tied to David Kilgour’s US home – Merge Records) with Anthology, another document highlighting The Clean’s seminal earlier material on the first disc, but now accompanied by a well-constructed summary of their subsequent release on a 2nd disc.
The groups final LP was Mister Pop, released by Arch Hill Recordings in 2009 to moderate success before the trio went back to their own projects again. This would become the groups final release, though the trio of Kilgour, Kilgour and Scott would grace the stage of Camp A Low Hum in February 2014 to an absolutely rapt young audience.
David Kilgour (who had been made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queens’ 2001 honors list) and Robert Scott have kept busy with their own song-writing pursuits back home in Dunedin.
Hamish Kilgour spent most of the 2010’s back in New York City, and had a trio of solo albums released on Ba Da Bing records. However, in 2020 Hamish moved to Christchurch, opened a 2nd hand clothing store (delightfully called ‘Bent Gent’) and formed The Sundae Painters alongside The Bats‘ Kaye Woodward and Paul Kean, plus the Tall Dwarfs‘ Alec Bathgate – releasing 2 singles. However in 2022 things turned dark for Hamish. He was reported missing in early December and eventually on 6 December 2022, the police confirmed that Kilgour’s body had been found.
- David Kilgour (Pop Art Toasters, Stephen, The Chills, The Great Unwashed, The Jessels, guitar / vocals, 1978 – 2022)
- Hamish Kilgour (Bailter Space, Bill Direen & The HAT, Cloudcraft, Coloring Book, Roya, The Great Unwashed, The Jessels, The Mad Scene, The Moles, The Sundae Painters, drums / vocals, 1978 – 2022)
- Peter Gutteridge (Snapper, The Chills, The Great Unwashed, The Puddle, bass / vocals, 1978 – 1979)
- Doug Hood (vocals, 1978)
- Lindsay Hooke (drums, 1979)
- Debbie Shadbolt (bass, 1979)
- Jessica Walker (bass, 1979)
- Robert Scott (Electric Blood, Gina Rocco And The Rockettes, Mr Big Nose, Pink Plastic Gods, The Bats, The Magick Heads, The Weeds, bass / vocals, 1980 – 2022)
- ‘Tally Ho!’/’Platypus’ 7″ Single (1981, Flying Nun Records, FN002 / YINGONE)
- Boodle Boodle Boodle 12″ EP (1981, Flying Nun Records, FN003)
- Great Sounds Great, Good Sounds Good.. 12″ EP (1982, Flying Nun Records, FNGOOD001]
- ‘Getting Older’/’Scrap Music/Whatever I Do It’s Right/Wrong’ 7″ single (1982, Flying Nun Records, LAST1]
- Odditties (1985 / 1995, Flying Nun Records / Cleano Productions, FNODDONE / FN223)
- Live Dead Clean 12″ EP (1985, Flying Nun Records, FNLDC001]
- Odditties 2 (1987 W/ The Great Unwashed, Flying Nun Records, FNODD2]
- Compilation (1988/1990, Flying Nun Records, FN154)
- In A Live 12″ EP (1990, Flying Nun Records, FNE29)
- Vehicle (1990, Flying Nun Records, FN147)
- Modern Rock (1994, Flying Nun Records, FN292)
- Late Last Night 7″ Single (1994, Dark Beloved Cloud, DBC020)
- ‘Trapped In Amber’/’Ludwig’ 7″ Flex-Disc (1994, Bonus With FN292, Flying Nun Records, FN311]
- Unknown Country (1996, Flying Nun Records, FN349)
- Getaway (2001, Flying Nun Records, FN459]
- Slush Fund Mini-Album (2001, Arc Life)
- Anthology Double CD compilation (2002, Flying Nun Records, FN468]
- Cracks In The Sidewalk EP (2002, Arc Life, ARCLIFE015]
- Syd’s Pink Wiring System live album (2003, Cleano, CLEANO0001)
- Mashed compilation (2008, Arc Life, AHR033)
- Mister Pop (2009, Arch Hill Recordings, AHR042)