I thought it would be clever and witty to give The Clean's new album, Getaway, a first listen while cleaning my house. I always need a soundtrack to dusting and sweeping, and this album seemed better than most for obvious reasons.
The Clean blend catchy head bobbing beats, fuzzy guitar distortion, a few sing-along melodies, some electronic blips and a hint of Eastern music to create the soundtrack to a lazy summer day.
Catchy enough to distract me from the monstrous dust bunnies on top of my fan, yet engaging enough to still be interesting, Getaway is perfect cleaning music.
Airy, yet sophisticated indie pop, Getaway is The Clean's fourth full-length recording and their first in three years. The New Zealand trio has also released countless EPs, singles and compilation tracks and is considered South Pacific rock royalty at home.
Sounding like something between Lou Reed and Beck, guitarist David Kilgore's lackadaisical lyrics glide effortlessly through the mix. His brother and band drummer Hamish's bassy voice balances out the sound on several tracks.
Bassist Robert Scott sings on two tracks as well, one of which is one of the album's best. "E Motel" is a solid Celtic/Americana-via-New Zealand rocker. The crisp production and infectious melody bring to mind Rod Stewart's "Maggie May" but in a good way.
Another standout, "Jala" displays some heavy Eastern influences. An Indian-sounding beat and hypnotic bass line pulse under David Kilgore's repeated chant of "How could you forget love?" Guitars, Eastern stringed instruments and electronics create more of a mood than an actual song.
The Eastern feel continues on forgettable tunes "Alpine Madness" and "Circle Canyon," which feature Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley. The songs could be throwaways from Yo La Tengo's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.
But the album's closer, "Complications," is by far the catchiest track. Like The Beach Boys as an amped-up garage rock band, The Clean tear through the rocker, complete with piano and jingle bells.
It's not hard to see why The Clean has been celebrated as a treasure of New Zealand's musical history. Solid, sunny and innovative, the band's brand of organic music sounds fresh and timeless. If I kept reviewing CDs like this, my house would probably be a lot cleaner.
By Brian Bedsworth
Born to Do It
The achievement of stardom in the United Kingdom offers no promise of equal glory for singers and musical acts aspiring for fame in the United States.
Fortunately, Craig David shows more promise than some of his predecessors. The 20-year-old exploded onto U.K. charts in March 2000, becoming the youngest British man to score a No. 1 hit when his debut single "Fill Me In" entered at the top spot.
Contending for an American audience, David mixes self-penned lyrics with R&B, hip hop and British dance music to create a fresh, palatable sound that gives listeners just a taste of what he's capable of doing -- think Donell Jones meets electronica.
A former DJ discovered by Mark Hill (one half of British production duo The Artful Dodger), David draws from a variety of musical styles to create smooth, danceable tracks, such as "7 Days," which pairs catchy pop lyrics with subtle Spanish-style guitar riffs.
But the album seems overproduced at times, with David's lyrics getting lost among the synthesized instrumentals and the choruses' excessive reverb. A vocal effect similar to that in "Do You Believe (In Life After Love)," it can only be used so many times before you begin to question the artist's ingenuity, not to mention taste.
The album's low point -- and an ugly glimpse of David's still-maturing songwriting -- comes out in "Booty Man," a tired portrayal of playas as admirable guys. It's hard to take him seriously as an artist while he's crooning, "Click off, click on ww.cd.com/ International bomb, the booty man's really got it going on."
David does redeem himself in the album's sensual, reflective ballads. From the slow, sexual "Follow Me" to the broken-hearted sentiment of "Key to My Heart," David's smooth, soulful voice dips and soars with emotion.
With the success of one album and a promising talent, David has great potential -- here's hoping he doesn't suffer a fate similar to that of the Spice Girls.
By Harmony Johnson
The Coast is Never Clear
Apples in Stereo, Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control -- no, not mixed drinks but the names a few bands in the Elephant 6 collective. For the uninitiated, Elephant 6 is a loose collection of bands that make music as if 1967 never ended.
Elephant 6 isn't just an adjective, however, it's also a stamp of quality. One of the latest and best groups under the umbrella is Beulah, a San Francisco band that made a splash with 1999's outstanding sophomore release When Your Heartstrings Break.
The band delivers another stand-out album with the new The Coast is Never Clear, a beach-breezy love letter of a record. If R.E.M.'s Reveal was a beginning-of-summer album, then this is an ode to the lazy days at the end of the summer, a September wolf whistle.
Unlike some of their artier Elephant 6 mates, Beulah doesn't sacrifice songs for style. Songwriter Miles Kurosky applies his neo-Beach Boys flourishes only after creating a strong batch of melodies both lilting and rollicking. As such, the tunes on The Coast is Never Clear seem as endearingly familiar as they do fresh.
Songs like "Gravity's Bringing Us Down" and "Hey Brother" are perfect pop: beautiful, catchy and even intelligent. Kurosky starts off with a dose of Brian Wilson harmonies, then adds some surf guitar and fuzzy bass, plus a dash of horns and violins and cooks for a few minutes.
The sunset-on-the-beach sound is complemented by Kurosky's longing lyrics. "Burned by the Sun," "Gene Autry" and "What Will You Do When the Suntan Fades?" continue the leaving-the-coast vibe. California, parties, orange suns and sand -- it's dusk at the beach, and the songs are a lazy high.
Like a lot of the best music today, you won't catch Beulah on the radio, but maybe that's not such a bad thing. Where they really belong is playing at beachfront parties to twisting surfers in remakes of those '60s Frankie and Annette flicks.
By Brian Millikin
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