If you’ve paid any attention to the outpouring of albums tied up in Captured Tracks’ admirable reissue campaign for Cleaners From Venus, perhaps it comes as no surprise that there’s even more in the well of Martin Newell. The Cleaners’ driving force has a deeper music history than the band’s massive catalog, having spent years in Gypp and a brief period of time mounting up as The Stray Trolleys. The latter is documented here, with their sole album getting a bit of spit and polish and a nice new reissue on the label. The album came out of Newell’s previous ties and obligations (band, relationship, house) sort of dissolving and there’s a shaggy sense of ‘screw it’ in the tracks, though coated in a winking pop charm. Recorded by friend and engineer Dave Hoser to a 4-track named “The Octopus Mobile,” the tracks don’t sound at all like castaways or toss offs, rather they embrace a fuller sound and roguish sheen.
Certainly employing a higher clarity than his work with The Cleaners, Newell captures a sound that was under the thrall of ’60s jangles but headed towards their immersion into a new brand of ’80s pop. There’s always been a draw to the rawness of The Cleaners’ work, but this has a charm that lays it in a space between the quirks of Deep Freeze Mice and the horizon that begat Elvis Costello or Nick Lowe. Even for those intimidated by the dense catalog that Cleaners From Venus sport would do well to start with this one on it’s own or even as a nice introduction to Newell’s universe. Cap Tracks have had the tendency to go all in on reissue campaigns, which is admirable to be sure. This one ends up as a welcome gift from their tenacity.
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