Flying Nun/Captured Tracks
There aren’t many bands that release their debut full-lengther only after their first reunion tour, but Vehicle (here reissued by Flying Nun with Captured Tracks) had exactly that auspicious/inauspicious (depending on how you look at it) release into this world. Robert Scott was already on into The Bats, David Kilgour had a solo album that arrived (almost) on the heels of this and Hamish Kilgour was away with the fairy side-projects also.
But Vehicle – especially now – sounds like a trim, perfect, focussed career summation. It’s both the perfect introduction to the band and it proved to be an energising rebirth for the band’s members.
Geoff Davies of Rough Trade offered the group a chance to release some new material having caught them on the reunion tour. Vehicle was chugged out over three days.
The stockpile of songs arrives over a decade into The Clean’s life (if you’re counting the hiatus) and the end result was a record that totalled up to less than half an hour; in my world that’s (often) the best kind of record.
These songs are urgent, impulsive, thoughtful, wise beyond their mere minutes (the recording equivalent of praising someone’s maturity despite tender years). Many of them barely crack the two-minute mark but like Robert Pollard and Elvis Costello and just a handful of other smart writers these songs burst with melodic ideas; these songs, too, seem almost to have no precedent. I mean, yep, sure, there’s the stunning early work of The Clean – but just as that too seemed to arrive fully formed, rules broken/ignored, a whole new world (to) set alight, it’s the same with Vehicle.
Diamond Shine and Dunes and The Blue and Draw(in)g to a (W)hole and Getting To You and…and…
The vinyl reissue comes with a bonus EP, those tracks are squeezed on the end of the single disc CD (and it still runs to just one side of a C-90 cassette tape). The bonus songs were previously known as the In-A-Live EP, stonking-good versions of Fish, Anything Could Happen, Flowers, Point That Thing Somewhere Else and Whatever I Do Is Right – gems, all of them. With just enough of David’s Byrds-ian psychedelic guitar chime in and around the squalls of the southern coastline as white noise turned/tuned to foamy rock’n’roll; the helter-skeltering spillover of drums pushing and poking and never dragging. No lag.
David Kilgour once told me the key to The Clean is Hamish’s drumming. You can hear that throughout. But in these tiny, perfect pop songs it’s easy to imagine Hamish deciding the key is actually Bob Scott and Bob announcing that it’s David. Round and round in circles – the intuition of this band, the band, the collective unit/union – round and round just like these wonderful songs, little cosmic spirals.
These days you’ll have people tell you The Clean are overrated because they’ve decided they cannot see the fuss. But this is just fucking stupid. A nonsense. An absurdity. They’re often the best band in the world. And you get different versions of that best band in the world here across the album and EP and neither one is better, just different. Both great. So great. So fucking good.