Thursday, October 1, 2009
Mister Pop - The Clean (No Ripcord Review)
No Ripcord Rating: 5/10
SCQ Rating: 57%
As surely as curious youngsters are digging through their parents’ old Zeppelin and Creedence LPs, curious hipsters are downloading early Clean albums. It’s as inevitable as the past is recyclable; the closer indie-rock came to mining late 70s alt-punk, the wider The Clean’s comeback platform unfurled. And given the fact that Morr Music has recently dedicated itself to modernizing New Zealand’s indie rep (last year’s Surf City EP, this year’s all-star covers double-disc of New Zealand’s alternative scene), it’s no surprise to find Mister Pop arrive via the popular German imprint. Yet for all that groundwork laid – not to mention the anticipation of The Clean’s first album in eight years – Mister Pop feels, well, off-topic… as if Morr’s twelve-month-long surf-rock pandering was built to teach a fatalistic lesson: you can’t go home again.
So erase your expectations of disaffected guitar riffs and proud loser anthems; The Clean aren’t interested in revisiting the past or living up to their pulse-pounding heyday. Instead Mister Pop aims for a psychedelic pleasantness where economic, mid-tempo tunes occasionally cross offbeat, worldly instrumentation. As with any record capable of alluring both carpoolers and stoners, the results here are varied. Lead single ‘In the Dreamlife U Need a Rubber Soul’ best characterizes The Clean’s aged jangle-pop, as relaxed vocals and unwavering structure offer melody but few surprises. The Clientele-esque rattle of ‘Back in the Day’ and Velvet Underground rip-off ‘Factory Man’ follow suite accordingly, showcasing dime-a-dozen chord progressions and lazy lyrics. Sure, nobody mistook The Clean for poets in their prime and I can look beyond each song’s chorus being a verbatim repetition of the song’s title, but clunkers like the spoken-word rambling “I’m not here for a long time / I’m just here for a good time” (‘Back in the Day’) or the aimless “A real-life factory man / and I’m no better than he cause I’m a factory man too” (‘Factory Man’) call into question whether this release is just a cash-in for the band. Thankfully Mister Pop retains some of the quartet's forward-thinking sensibilities with the effects-laden ‘Tensile’ and the barely audible no-wave backbeat of ‘Are You Really On Drugs’. To crudely divide Mister Pop’s straight-forward pop from its synthesizer-driven instrumentals, The Clean manage to give us a few decent guitar riffs. Of course, coming from an eight-year absence, that’s a polite way to infer disappointment.
Where this album truly feels loved by The Clean is on the instrumentals, which are multilayered landscapes of eloquent synths that provide the real personality to Mister Pop. Organic yet mystical, these lyricless passages reintroduce some much-needed uncertainty with the krautrock push of ‘Moon Jumper’ or ‘Simple Fix’s lush swansong. How these twee-approved embellishments help the record are hard to prove, seeing as none of them give Mister Pop the edge it sorely needs. Yet, in the least, the gentle sighs render Mister Pop as intermittently pretty as it is prosaic, and point toward a new, if unstable, direction for the band.
(This review was originally published on No Ripcord...)