Live: The Clean Chimes And Charms At (Le) Poisson Rouge


The Clean w/Times New Viking
(le) Poisson Rouge
Tuesday, June 5

Better than: Another night watching four or five episodes of The X-Files and snorting whenever Mulder is earnest, yet craving the same impossible widescreen truths.

Just got back and my ears are clogged with noise. I’d hate to be someone trying to tell me something right now, i.e. my wife telling me that all the men at the show needed haircuts and all the pixie-cut women needed to let it grow out. As a matter of simple empiricism, I should note that I saw mostly male-pattern baldness. Not that the shedders among us were any less invested in the sound, of which there was plenty. Too much? I’ll report back when I’m deaf.

Times New Viking can take much of the blame for my inexorable hearing loss. They were a lot more tuneful and technically adept than they’ve ever been in mp3 form, though about as caustic. High as the treble was in the mix, you could still feel the low end in your shoes. The first half of the set was sharper than the next, reminding one that it takes real chops to sound this annoying.

Oh, I kid, but here’s a complaint I’m dead serious about: drummer Adam Elliott manifests some of the worst stage persona I’ve had the displeasure to endure. Let your sticks do the talking, dude. Ferocious, yelpy mall-punk never got anywhere on its witty asides. (There’s so much more pathos in the false starts.) And here’s a piece of advice for any band: no matter how funny it seems, never, ever tell your audience that they’re “seven songs away” from the headliner. Chances are it’ll feel like an eternity anyway.

The Clean lived magnificently up to their name, wiping away the aural grease stain that even TNK’s best numbers tended to smear into, starting with the chugging psychedelia of “Point That Thing Somewhere Else.” These days, at least, it resembles a plea from New Zealand and the rest of the mild-mannered world for the U.S. to remember its brute strength. The set—classic, chiming, Flying Nun Kiwi-pop through and through—would lock into and rely upon these heavy, hypnotic, fatal grooves on songs like “Anything Could Happen” and “Getting Older.” (Hamish Kilgour introduced the latter by noting that he would have, in the late 1970s, taken the dry ice wafting over the stage as a serious indictment of a band that played in it.)

A shaggy run through “Drawing To A Whole” was dedicated to a friend. Lots of friends were mentioned, come to think of it. “Tally Ho!” ended a show that could have used more keyboard, honestly, but who was keeping track, besides the critics? The second part of the encore was a savage take on “Oddity,” of a kinship with Pavement’s warped cover of same. In the end, both bands were having too much fun to worry about how they read—the mark of the truly cool, or true geeks. Both, is what I’m saying. It was a vortex of shitgaze and Dick Dale surf guitar and even the thirty-year-old songs were new.

Critical bias: I was perhaps craving the slower, weirded-out songs in The Clean’s repertoire, but you try shouting out “Franz Kafka At The Zoo” in a crowded room under any circumstances and let me know how it goes.

Overheard: A fan(?) who, upon hearing the first syllable of introduction from Times New Viking, screamed “Shut up and play!” Leaving me to wonder if my thoughts could really project themselves this way.

Random notebook dump: Are these the worst drink-elbowers in the world or what? I could have wrung an extra pint out of my socks.