Whilst James T. Kirk spent his days searching the never regions of outerspace, these Cleaners From Venus were in fact from the deepest depths of Essex. The wild frontier of Wivenhoe may not be known for it’s reggae scene nor it’s space programme but luckily for us it remains synonymous with the cassette underground during the post punk era.
Thanks mainly to Martin Newell and a succession of near misses with bands Plod and Gypp in the mid 70’s, Wivenhoe’s insertion in the Skank Blog files was set in stone when “the wild man of Wivenhoe” turned his back on the music biz and started his own cottage industry. The Cleaners From Venus formed around a 4 track in 1980, with head Cleaner Newell inviting fellow multi-isntrumentalist Lol Elliot to collaborate, and soon they were distributing their tapes via their own Man At The Off License imprint, and the Swiss cassette only label Calypso Now.
Between ’81 and ’86 the Cleaners released a staggering 8 albums blistering with psychedelic swirls of dream pop and post punk approximations before finally signing to RCA in ’87. An ill fated coalition which ended on stage somewhere behind the iron curtain, the brief success and instant demise documented in one time member and Times journo Giles Smith’s book Lost In Music.
But it’s the murky old tape material we’re concerned with today because the Cleaners debut Blow Away Your Troubles featured a spiky soundbite fitting for the Bologna boom-box. Minimal Animal may open with some ill advised Jafaican tomfoolery but the burping bass and clattering drum pans are the backbone of another uneasy skanker.
This may well be edging unpleasantly into cod territories but hell, you never heard Harry Nillson playing a reggae glockenspiel did you?
And entirely unrelated but well worth mentioning simply for the Star Trek theme and Alternative TV relation (via producer Joe Sinclair) – the synthesized skank of Star Trek by The Vulcans…