Let’s cut out the filler, then, and sum up by saying that I while I was both interning at SPIN and laboring paylessly at an independent music mag called The New York Review of Records at the dawn of the 90’s, I was fortunate to have gotten exposed to a dizzying amount of new music, and one small part of that was Vehicle, the debut long-player by New Zealand’s The Clean.
If you’re not familiar with The Clean or their accompanying “Kiwipop” scene, they played a spirited blend of guitar-based pop that was a little jangly, a little punky and endearingly unpolished. Following in the grand tradition of bands like Big Star, The Modern Lovers and The Mekons, The Clean became one of those bands that seemingly only rock critics and hipsters got excited about. Regardless, I thought Vehicle was simply great, and tracks from thereupon found their way onto many a mixtape I unsolicitedly pressed into the palms and tape decks of innumerable friends.
Somewhat amazingly, Vehicle -- this humble little album by this tiny little indie band from New Zealand -- was treated to an 20-year-anniversary re-issue back in August. To mark the occasion, the band released a video of archival footage of their first visit to New York City in 1989. Pitchfork ran a story about it back in early September, but my friend Erik spotted it recently and e-mailed me, and it’s just the type of clip that makes me lose my mind.
Even if you’re not a fan of The Clean (personally speaking, this song is not my favorite on the album, that being either “Someone” or “Diamond Shines”), as you watch this clip for “Dunes,” you’ll take in a surprisingly thorough view of the rock geek’s New York City. At around 00:44 into, you’ll see the band walked north on Broadway, probably having just exited 611 Broadway, the then-home to indie labels like Matador, 4AD and The Clean’s label, Rough Trade. Catch a glimpse of the old Bottom Line at 01:07 (now a soulless NYU facility). Check out the facades of CBGB and the CBGB Record Canteen at 1:46. See the front of the old Knitting Factory during its tenure on East Houston at 02:01. And catch a last glimpse of the front of Maxwell’s in Hoboken at 02:27.
In the Pitchforck article, Clean songwriter David Kilgour writes that the day he filmed that footage, The Cult were filming a video inside CBGB. That would have been the video for “Edie (Ciao Baby)” (which also featured the exterior of Billy’s Topless on Sixth Avenue and 24th Street).
Speaking of the old Knitting Factory, though, I found the below shot of its old exterior on Gregoire Alessandrini’s ever-excellent New York in the 1990’s blog. As great as its TriBeCa incarnation was, I was a bigger fan of this weird, cramped little club, and saw a few amazing performances there, not least by the Meat Puppets and Sonic Youth (performing under the alias “Sonic Death”). After it closed, the bar downstairs became Botanica, and the upstairs space was briefly a compact disc shop of no real distinction and then a restaurant.