Cleaners from Venus

The Cleaners from Venus, Vol. 2

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The home-recorded lo-fi cassettes of British pop weirdos the Cleaners from Venus seemed almost preordained to be obscured for decades before enough time had passed for a later generation to discover and appreciate their value. Brooklyn label Captured Tracks introduced the band to a larger audience with their first compilation of the group's long unavailable albums in 2012, and Cleaners from Venus, Vol. 2 offers even more from the prolific yet largely unknown Cleaners, packaging three albums from a productive period between 1983 and 1985, and including a volume of unreleased and rare tracks that date as far back as 1967. The physical copies of the album bore the slogan "We're Reversing into the Future," which is more than fitting when listening to the future-imagining '80s bedroom pop strewn across three reissued sets and one rarities collection here. Released in 1983, In the Golden Autumn has hints of the rock songwriting of the Kinks or the Beatles, filtered through a fractured lens of tape hiss and wonky drum machines, more than predicting both Ariel Pink's warped look at pop and Guided by Voices' drunken four-track compositions. Especially stellar are tracks like "A Holloway Person" and the devotional "Marilyn on a Train," which saw release in an alternate version on 1981 album Blow Away Your Troubles. By this point in the Cleaners' discography, founding member Lawrence Elliott had left the band, leaving principal songwriter Martin Newell to his own devices. Newell has been disillusioned by a career in the music industry, which accounted for the group's self-imposed obscurity to some extent. Reflecting some of the trends of the day (slick rhythmic hybrids of the disco era and its foil of hard radio rock's distorted guitar on "Hand of Stone," "A Blue Wave") in his home-recorded songs but violently opposing the machinery of corporatized record labels made for a strange, insular combination. Relying more on their own imagination and skewed perceptions of what may or may not have been happening in the music of the outside world, the other albums represented here, 1984's Under Wartime Conditions and 1985's Songs for...a Fallow Land (not to mention the rarities), are unspoiled, genuinely strange looks into one band's take on pop music, with results as captivating and moving as they are confusing.

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