In the early 80s, The Cleaners From Venus were among the UK’s best-kept secrets. One confidently assumes they would rather have been among our most-feted pop princelings, but there was something about Martin Newell’s exemplary, cultivated songs that made people want to clutch them to their chests. Besides, lo-fi’s time was yet to arrive – and, as a listening experience, the early Cleaners albums were veritable mud sculptures.
This box set encompasses the 1981 debut, Blow Away Your Troubles, and the following year’s On Any Normal Monday and Midnight Cleaners, all cassette-only releases in their original incarnation. Longstanding Cleaners aficionados revere songs such as Helpless and Winter In The Country for their jocund, Joe Jackson-esque verse melodies, and may even have grown to love the silty production, as it created an intriguingly opaque world; but the remastering here is subtly revelatory.
High points abound, not least the remarkable Tukani (Monday Is Grey) – dubby English kraut-folk, downbeat and literate – and Wivenhoe Bells, a hit in waiting had it not been so doggedly parochial, and seemingly recorded on calico. Night Starvation (“I’ve got too much blood in my alcohol stream”) and The Girl With Cars In Her Eyes approach XTC levels of erudition.