August 22, 2014

The Clean played Rough Trade

These days, the state of band reunions seems to be more of a "when" not "if" question. New Zealand's The Clean, however, have been hitting the reunion circuit since the late 1980s. In fact, their debut album, the brilliant Vehicle, came out in 1990, over a decade after they first formed and had already taken some time apart to focus on other projects. However, unlike many other bands riding high on the nostalgia reunion train, it's hard to lump the Clean into the same category.

Their following barely left New Zealand during their early years and only crate digging listeners helped expand their reach to college rock bands like Camper Van Beethoven, R.E.M. and Pavement. Still, the Clean have gathered some steam in recent years, touring the U.S. several times in the past decade and recent reissues from Captured Tracks are only broadening their audience. Playing a show at the newish Brooklyn outpost Rough Trade was rather fitting this time around, the label released Vehicle back in the day, and the trio eased into their performance with such style and grace. They came across as seasoned veterans, barely breaking a sweat as they dove into their classic material. Witnessing the group live, it's easy to see just how wide-spread their influence was as their jangle-pop melodies, short blasts of vigor, and seamless grooves echoed the lo-fi and indie scenes of the 90s. Jams extended into delightful tunes and never once did their energy let up throughout their set. Maybe it was their thick accents, but at times the vocals seemed buried too far down into the mix, but otherwise the band seemed to play without a hitch. For a band so ahead of their time decades ago, it was rather refreshing to see that not only had they not lost their touch, but still sounded as on point now as they did on record so many years ago.

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