If nothing else, the new reissue of Getaway (2001) from The Clean, out on Friday from Merge Records, makes a case for David Kilgour being one of the most interesting guitarists to ever pick up the instrument in the post-punk era. And, sure, in some ways Getaway was the signal of a new era in the sound of The Clean but it was also one of the band's bravest releases, a claim now bolstered by the addition of a full disc of incendiary bonus material.
The band -- a trio of vocalist/guitarist David Kilgour, drummer Hamish Kilgour, and bassist Robert Scott -- in 2001 set about to record what would be the band's most expansive release to date. If the angular riffs of early Clean singles were gone, what remained was a sense of exploration and a fearlessness in approaching material so loose ("Circle Canyon", "Silence of Something Else") that it served really as a base from which these players could chard new territories. Stuff like "Crazy" sounds as much like early Clean sides as it does American bands like Pavement or Built to Spill. Considered in hindsight, it makes perfect sense that Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley from Yo La Tengo were on this release as, frankly, Getaway sounds as much like one of that band's long-players as it does a Clean one. "Stars" offers up a fine showcase for David Kilgour's vocal-and-guitar approach, equal parts Neil Young and pure Kiwi indie, while more expansive cuts like "Aho" provide the space necessary for Kilgour to cut loose. More than anything else, this record prefigures the fine solo albums David Kilgour would release after this on which he would pursue traditions more closely aligned with Neil Young and Robert Quine than those of his New Zealand compatriots.
Now what makes this reissue of Getaway by The Clean such an essential purchase is not just the remastering job that the folks at Merge Records have performed -- and, believe me, this record sounds better than it ever has -- but the wealth of bonus cuts they have loaded this thing up with. Disc 2 is more than 80 minutes of extra material including the rare EP Slush Fund. Crammed with familiar Clean nuggets like "Point That Thing Somewhere Else" and "Fish", the EP features some of Kilgour's best guitar playing. Transcendent, really, these lines unfurl with echoes of Lloyd, Verlaine, and Young, especially the epic "Quickstep" which features Martin Phillipps of The Chills on the omnichord.
The rare live album Syd's Pink Wiring System from 2003 shows up here too. Featuring wild and loose versions of Clean standards like "I Wait Around", this set showcases the strengths of this trio to excellent effect. If a cut like "Do Your Thing" from Modern Rock sounds practically unhinged here, it's a fine kind of unhinged; the players, particularly Kilgour, of course, mastering material that allows such a workout. With perhaps the exception of Yo La Tengo, few bands of this era were capable of cranking out stuff like this without getting lost in a sea of guitar effects. Early cut "At The Bottom" here takes on a sort of White Light/White Heat artiness that stands in sharp contrast to those earlier more concise moments on Clean albums. Still, what we're hearing here is a band largely unconstrained by the need to make the material too manageable. What we're hearing is, obviously, Kilgour and Kilgour and Scott (and Martin Phillipps) enjoying a certain freedom. If The Clean were revisiting their earlier material for this live session captured on Syd's Pink Wiring System, they seemed to be doing so in order to push the envelope of their signature sound even further out. Short of being proof of a full-blown reinvention, this bonus material on this new edition of Getaway offers up the proof that The Clean remain one of the boldest bands to emerge from the Flying Nun Records-based flowering of talent. Post-2001, Kilgour's crew took remarkable chances, chances that paid off in the discovery of new directions for these players to explore. Clearly the template for Kilgour's solo releases some years after this, this material is fiery and brash and untrained. And that makes it essential for even a casual fan of this band and those who've been following the entirety of New Zealand rock history.
Getaway by The Clean is being reissued this Friday by Merge Records. Available in multiple formats, there's more than 2 hours of music here with Disc 2 being some of the most vital material this band ever produced. This is this week's most necessary purchase for the discerning music fan.