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Track By Track: The Clean's Robert Scott Talks About 'Unknown Country'

Track By Track: The Clean's Robert Scott Talks About 'Unknown Country'

Chris Cudby / Robert Scott / Friday 26th March, 2021 2:31PM

Deservedly revered for changing the face of independent music in Aotearoa and abroad, from the legendary success of their 1981 Flying Nun debut single 'Tally Ho!' onwards, The Clean have opened up the vaults with new vinyl reissues of their albums Unknown Country (1996) and Mister Pop (2009), released today via Merge Records. Originally launched during the era of the compact disc, the iconic team of brothers David and Hamish Kilgour and Robert Scott's albums are available on vinyl LP for the first time ever in the US (as well as CD). To mark this auspicious occasion, Robert Scott and David Kilgour very generously shared their personal insights on each and every track from both records. Dive into David Kilgour's reminiscences about Mister Pop HERE and scroll down for The Bats frontman Scott's illuminating reflections on all 18 songs from Unknown Country, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year...

Unknown Country (piece by piece)

1. 'Wipe Me I'm Lucky'

Up in the clouds, zooming and floating, sounds like quite a bit went into the structure and production on this. Played live a lot. Backwards percussion is always good too.

2. 'Champagne and Misery'

Two great titles so far, always a good sign, "X ray spex didn't do much good..." A great sound, cohesive and tight, good pop structure with cool changes and a double co-vocal between Hamish and David.

3. 'Changing Your Head'

Well you need to listen to this album. I like the way the changes happen in the song, a good collaborative example, propulsive. "what we do with our lives..."

4. 'Balkans'

From memory laid down as a 'proper' song then getting Alan Starrett to do his wonderful string stuff, then stripped away the main body of the song just leaving Alan's overdubs, the feel is somewhere between Turkey and Bulgaria.

5. 'Clutch'

Dreamtime whimsey, a story I dreamt up. sweet treatment tempered by good wacky overdubs and a co-vocal "I've got my mind all opened up". Feels wobbly and disjointed like it could collapse, that is probably good.

6. 'Franz Kafka at the Zoo'

Hamish in fine wacky lyrical form, freestyling, I love the backing track, David on bass and high plucked piano strings. You may have to strain to hear the story... it's worth the effort, there are some cracking lines in there.



7. 'Whisk'

Enjoying the sound of ourselves mucking around, Keys, plucked strings, exploring sound for the fun of it... Eastern tones?


8. 'Indigo Blue'

The wild blue yonder, glassy slide shimmering up high, the bass riff anchoring it all. A great Hamish vocal, evocative and moody.

9. 'Chumpy'

A crowd stomper for a while when it was tackled live. Mutant disco for Cro-Magnons. Great keyboards, bass and drums drive it forward. Alan's strings provide wonderful tension as it ebbs and flows, mad otherworldly music.

10. 'Get the Liquid'

Who made up these mad titles, we were on a roll with this stuff, lots of ideas flowing. Misleading intro, then it dives into strange bizarre sections and changes. We were heading down prog road but got well lost, we knew what we were aiming for.

11. 'Happy Lil Fella'

More madness, lightweight mutant pop from another place. South Pacific Western. Sparkling guitars and the song is constantly changing, never settling in one place for too long.


12. 'Tweezer'

A bass pattern that stretched my fingers to their limit. Keyboard excursion, background music for a warthog doco.

13. 'Rope'

Rainy arvo ditty, a sad western story "there's a rope on the wall, that isn't for you" Bass, piano and percussion...come to think of it there is a lot of piano on this album.

14. 'Twist Top'

Wonderful pop, one of my faves. Almost seems out of place on this album, a ray of light in the darkness. It came together easily and all the overdubs and ideas fit well. "3 million people can / can't be wrong". It doesn't muck around and before you know it the outro is happening and it's a doozy, should have been a hit.

15. 'Cooking Water'

Dark, claustrophobic at first then sometimes it opens up and lets the light in, sound almost like a normal song then dives back in on itself. A very tight riff, it doesn't sound like us or anyone else for that matter.


16. 'Valley Cab'

A song about David and I getting a taxi home to North East Valley each night after recording. Scary overdubs over a sweet Piano and vocal. "Now we've lost the night, was it ever ours" Another wobbly gem.

17. 'Wall Walk'

White boy disco/dub. Quite a swagger to this one, David having fun on the keys conjuring some middle eastern vibes, boom then partway through. It changes into another song, ambitious structure and many changes, strings come in and change the feel, the bass and drums re enter the fray. A one off never attempted live, for good reason.

18. 'Balkans'

Revisited, possibly from the same original song idea, slightly different mix of Alan's overdubs, lost in the ether, another world.

Thanks for reading this rant. Robert Scott, late March 2021.

The Clean's 'Mister Pop' and 'Unknown Country' are out now vinyl LP and compact disc via Merge Records.


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