While part of the Clean's undeniable charm is its overall familiarity -- every new album, when it appears, feeling like another pleasant greeting from an old friend -- it's a familiarity that doesn't breed contempt. The archly titled Modern Rock, slyly digging at the tag often applied to the band's music in earlier years, a la "college rock," finds the trio merrily making its way through fourteen gently rocking, gently chiming originals. Though recorded over only ten days, the combined experience and ability of the three members allowed them to whip up a fairly elaborate set of songs, as indicated by some of the intriguing arrangements. The spacey echo on the keyboards for "Outside the Cage" and spectral backing vocals on "Something I Need" are two highlights among many. There's also a pleasant low fuzz at points bespeaking both the continuing influence of the Velvet Underground and New Zealand's vaunted tape subculture that seems just right for the proceedings. Hearing Scott's vocals on a slightly different tip than his work in the Bats is especially a treat -- after the series of eternally sparkling jangle-rock he's made his own, hearing more consciously experimental touches behind his voice makes a fine contrast. The Kilgours continue in their own particular veins, with everyone trading around vocals in a fairly even split. Those familiar with the band mostly through "Tally Ho!" or the other earlier work will find this version of the Clean -- generally calmer in many areas, downright reflective or melancholic in more -- an intriguing change. The members have matured, but in such a way as not to sound like typically sleepy midlife crises come to life.
Contributed by Jay Beck
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