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The Cleaners From Venus

The most extensive of singer/songwriter Martin Newell's various projects, Cleaners from Venus recorded some of the finest -- and most neglected -- British pop/rock of the 1980s. The Cleaners' failure to find a wider audience is due at least in part to their unconventional method of distribution. After a short, bitter experience in the music business recording for a large label, Newell retreated to his home studio at the beginning of the '80s, determined not to have to play by the usual compromising music business rules. As the chief of Cleaners from Venus, he and cohorts recorded several albums on their own, and distributed them via self-produced cassettes that were chiefly available by mail. There were thousands of such acts working in this manner in the cassette underground, but most of them were either off-puttingly amateurish or forebodingly avant-garde and experimental. Cleaners from Venus were distinguished from the usual lot because they specialized in extremely witty, cheery, and compact pop songs.

Newell's choice to use underground distribution networks made sense. He and his musicians were too eccentric and, at times, experimental to withstand the homogenizing influence of record companies. What they lacked in technique -- the early tapes often have a hissy sound and thumpy percussion -- they more than made up for in pure heart. Newell, who wrote and sang virtually all of the material, is a tuneful British eccentric in the mold of Ray Davies or Andy Partridge of XTC, with a humor akin to Monty Python or the Bonzo Dog Band. Cleaners from Venus couldn't be pigeonholed as revivalists, however, due to the '80s jangle of the guitars and the expressively yearning qualities of Newell's vocals; the melodies were almost always infectious and bursting with harmonies.

Newell's main partner in the early days of Cleaners from Venus was drummer Lol Elliott. By the mid-'80s, Martin had hooked up with the more conventionally skilled pianist Giles Smith, and the Cleaners' recording techniques had improved to the level of "real" records. One result was the glorious Living with Victoria Grey tape, with uniformly strong songs that usually reflected pastoral English life with affectionate irony. Another result of their (by cassette underground standards) increasing success and popularity were deals to produce bona fide vinyl LPs for record labels; they even got a deal with RCA in Germany. Almost predictably, the records, with bigger budgets and increased attention to audiophile concerns, sounded a bit mechanical and whitewashed compared to the cassettes, even when the Cleaners were re-recording material that had originally been released on tape.

By the end of the '80s, Newell had discontinued Cleaners from Venus and founded a new, very similar project called Brotherhood of Lizards, which lasted for a while before bassist Nelson (no last name) joined New Model Army. In the '90s, Newell established a solo career on indie labels that found him carrying on the Cleaners' tradition of playing pure pop in an undiluted manner. (Giles Smith wrote a book about his obsessive rock fandom, Lost in Music, which draws to some degree upon his experiences in Cleaners from Venus.) There have been a couple of Cleaners compilations, most notably 2004's Living with Victoria Grey: The Very Best of Cleaners from Venus, and in 2012 Burger Records began reissuing many of the rare Cleaners recordings in their original cassette format. That same year, Captured Tracks also launched a Cleaners from Venus reissue program, releasing more of their extensive back catalog on vinyl and in digital form. ~ Richie Unterberger
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Cleaners From Venus - Vol. 2

Disc 1

1. Renaee (Who's Driving Your Car?)

2. A Holloway Person

3. Ghosts In Doorways

4. The Autumn Cornfield

5. Please Don't Step On My Rainbow

6. Balloon Drop Shadow

7. Krugerrand Gladiators

8. Golden Age Saturday

9. Marilyn On A Train

10. Sandstorm In Paradise

11. Victorian Society

12. A Fool Like You

Disc 2

1. Summer In A Small Town

2. Johnny The Moondog Is Dead

3. Hand Of Stone

4. Drowning Butterflies

5. Radio Seven

6. Fracas On West Street

7. Lukewarm Lovesong

8. A Blue Wave

9. A Song For Syd Barrett

10. The Winter Palace

Disc 3

1. Sun Comes To The Wood

2. Julie Profumo

3. Soul Monday

4. Gamma Ray Blue

5. Heroin Clones

6. Winter Palace 2

7. Golden Lane

8. Stars Are Cold

9. Late Night

10. Beyond

11. (...And Beyond)

Disc 4

1. Roots And Beginnings

2. Russian Picture

3. Bon Temps Roulez

4. Mrs. Killer

5. Sylvie In Toytown

6. Young Jobless

7. The Secret Dreams Of A Kitchen Porter

8. It's Been So Long

9. Something In My Eye

10. When Fire Burns Dreams

11. Amateur Paranoiac

12. Drowning Butterflies (Big Expensive Version)

13. Beyond The Blue Horizon

x

Track List: The Cleaners From Venus Vol.1

Disc 1

1. Swinging London

2. A Blue Wave

3. 3 Union Lads

4. Helpless

5. Winter In The Country

6. Modern TV

7. Kool Of The Night

8. The Trevor Rutter Experience

9. Marathon

10. A Personal Issue

11. Marathon (2)

12. Urban Jungle

13. A Minimal Animal

14. I Fell In Love With A Cleaner

15. So This Is Modern Jazz, Is It?

16. Marilyn On A Train (1981 Version)

17. A Weekend In Subordia

18. Wivenhoe Bells (1980 Version)

19. University Challange

20. Alien

21. At Home With Myself

22. The Artichoke That Love Me

Disc 2

1. Night Starvation

2. Tukani (Monday Is Grey)

3. A Girl With Cars In Her Eyes

4. I Can't Stop (Holding On)

5. Living On Nerve Ends

6. I Wanna Do That

7. European War

8. Hungry Day

9. F.U.N.

10. Be An Idiot Pop Star

11. Marilyn On A Train (1982 Version)

Disc 3

1. This Rainy Decade

2. Time In Vain

3. Only A Shadow

4. Corridor Of Dream

5. Wivenhoe Bells (Version II)

6. Midnight Cleaners

7. Factory Boy

8. A Wretched Street

9. Don't You Worry About The Ads

x

Track List: A Dawn Chorus

1. Roots And Beginnings

2. Russian Picture

3. Bon Temps Roulez

4. Mrs. Killer

5. Sylvie In Toytown

6. Young Jobless

7. The Secret Dreams Of A Kitchen Porter

8. It's Been So Long

9. Something In My Eye

10. When Fire Burns Dreams

11. Amateur Paranoiac

12. Drowning Butterflies

13. Beyond The Blue Horizon

x

Track List: Blow Away Your Troubles

1. Swinging London

2. A Blue Wave

3. Union Lads

4. Helpless

5. Winter In The Country

6. Modern TV

7. Kool Of The Night

8. The Trevor Rutter Experience

9. Marathon

10. A Personal Issue

11. Marathon (2)

12. Urban Jungle

13. A Minimal Animal

14. I Fell In Love With A Cleaner

15. So This Is Modern Jazz Is It

16. Marilyn On A Train (1981 Version)

17. A Weekend In Subordia

18. Wivenhoe Bells (1980 Version)

19. University Challenge

20. Alien

21. At Home With Myself

22. The Artichoke That Loved Me

x

Track List: Extra Wages

1. It Could Have Been Cheryl

2. The Iceberg And Unicorn

3. The World Strikes One

4. The Princes Of Suburbia

5. Rusty Iron Sun

6. Gatecrashing Oyster Park

7. Finding My Own Way Home

8. Red Guitars And Silver Tambourines

9. Everytime I Go Up

10. The Green Gold Girl Of The Summer

11. We'll Build A House

x

Track List: In The Golden Autumn

1. Renee (Who's Driving Your Car?)

2. A Holloway Person

3. Ghosts In Doorways

4. The Autumn Cornfield

5. Please Don't Step On My Rainbow

6. Balloon Drop Shadow

7. Krugerrand Gladiators

8. Golden Age Saturday

9. Marilyn On A Train

10. Sandstorm In Paradise

11. Victorian Society

12. A Fool Like You

x

Track List: Midnight Cleaners

1. This Rainy Decade

2. Time In Vain

3. Only A Shadow

4. Corridor Of Dreams

5. Wivenhoe Bells (II)

6. Midnight Cleaners

7. Factory Boy

8. A Wretched Street

9. Don't You Worry About The Ads

x

Track List: Number Thirteen

1. The Jangling Man

2. No Go (For Louis Macneice)

3. Mariette

4. A Man For Our Time

5. Here She Crashes

6. A Street Called Prospect

7. Minesweeping Memory Lane

8. Germayne (Like A Cathedral)

9. Boy From The Home Counties

10. The Tear Collector

11. Christmas In Suburbia

x

Track List: On Any Normal Monday

1. Night Starvation

2. Tukani (Monday Is Grey)

3. A Girl With Cars In Her Eyes

4. I Can't Stop Holding On

5. Living On Nerve Ends

6. I Wanna Do That

7. European War

8. Hungry Day

9. F U N

10. Be An Idiot Popstar

11. Marilyn On A Train (1982)

x

Track List: Songs For A Fallow Land

1. Sun Comes To The Wood

2. Julie Profumo

3. Soul Monday

4. Gamma Ray Blue

5. Heroin Clones

6. Winter Place 2

7. Golden Lane

8. Stars Are Cold

9. Late Night

10. Beyond

11. (...And Beyond)

x

Track List: The Cleaners From Venus Vol. 3

1. Victoria Grey

2. The Jangling Man

3. Stay Lit

4. It Could Have Been Cheryl

5. Ilya Kuryakin Looked At Me

6. No Go (For Louis Macneice)

7. Gulf War Song

8. The Iceberg And Unicorn

9. Clara Bow (1986)

10. Mariette

11. Smash Yore Watch

12. The World Strikes One

13. Follow The Plough

14. A Man For Our Time

15. You Should Have Called

16. The Princes Of Suburbia

17. Stay On

18. Here She Crashes

19. Arcadian Boys

20. What's Going On (In Your Heart)

21. A Street Called Prospect

22. Crane Driver

23. The Mercury Girl

24. Minesweeping Memory Lane

25. She Rings The Changes

26. Armistice Day

27. Germayne (Like A Cathedral)

28. Before The Hurricane

29. Pearl

30. Boy From The Home Counties

31. Clara Bow (1992)

32. Victoria Grey

33. The Tear Collector

34. When My Ship Comes In

35. Christmas In Suburbia

36. Incident In A Greatcoat

37. Haunt Your House

x

Track List: The Late District

1. Lost Voices

2. Saturday Games

3. Essex Girls

4. I'm Moving On

5. Show Pony

6. Marble Run

7. The Return Of The Cat

8. Twinkle

9. The Death Of The English Pub

10. Terrible Old Lizard

11. Idol

12. The Lost Summer

13. Ancient Lights

14. The Late District

15. Welcome To Heaven

x

Track List: Under Wartime Conditions

1. Summer In A Small Town

2. Johnny The Moondog Is Dead

3. Hand Of Stone

4. Drowning Butterflies

5. Radio Seven

6. Fracas On West Street

7. Lukewarm Love Song

8. A Blue Wave

9. Song For Syd Barrett

10. The Winter Place

Comments

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They never leave
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c'mon...you' r e not that bad...
Report as inappropriate
Boring, pretentious and unnecessary
Report as inappropriate
I just f@rted
Report as inappropriate
Why would they forget you:(
Report as inappropriate
Haha
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No my 80s pals you deserve more
Report as inappropriate
Da faq i'm second

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