Cleaners from Venus

Living with Victoria Grey: The Very Best of Cleaners from Venus

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It's stretching things a little to call this a best-of (or certainly a "very best-of"), since this draws from a fairly limited slice of Cleaners From Venus' prolific 1981-1990 output. It focuses on the late-1980s period when Giles Smith was primary CFV singer/songwriter Martin Newell's chief collaborator in the band, and when the group graduated from underground cassettes to more widely distributed LPs. Not that you'd necessarily be able to figure that out from the liner notes, which, while including a thorough discography, neglect to list original release details for any of the tracks on this anthology. It's not a trivial omission, particularly since, as the fairly small circle of Cleaners From Venus fans know, some of these 18 songs sounded better (and certainly less overproduced) in their original versions on those cassette-only releases. That's particularly true of the songs from their best cassette-only album, Living With Victoria Grey, several of which show up here in slicker, less effective arrangements. All those reservations out of the way, this is still a good, often charming selection of some of the group's more widely circulated tracks -- not that any of them were ever too widely heard. The melodies are infectious, the guitars ringing, the lyrics witty, and the sound indebted to '60s pop/rock without sounding revivalistic (a much rarer feat than it should be). It's one of the few best-of's from a hitless '80s indie band that actually sounds like a collection of worthy hit singles, rather than songs that just wished they were hit singles, or were trying to be hit singles without the quality to justify such popularity. As a nice bonus, Giles Smith contributes a witty sleeve note, and on the CD's final four tracks, he reads four spoken extracts about his Cleaners From Venus experiences from his autobiographical book Lost in Music (which is well worth reading, by the way).

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