Album Review: Martin Newell’s Jumble Sale by The Cleaners from Venus (2017) (Self Released)

As a young soccer coach many moons ago, I coached a teenager who was so incredibly talented that he inadvertently exuded arrogance. If he played in a match,  he invariably excelled no matter what the level of opposition he encountered. He later went onto to play in the Premiership and always retained that air of complete control. His arrogance was backed had its foundation in genuine ability.
Martin Newell reminded me of my former sporting charge, when, during a promotional interview for this compilation, he declared…

…At the risk of sounding arrogant, it also demonstrates to a lot of clowns who are supposed to be good songwriters, that I leave better songs in my demo heap than most of them can come up with as as best-shot.

Just like the young sports star, Newell has complete confidence in his ability. This is warranted by the sheer brilliance of numerous tracks on this album that would be considered lead singles in the discographies of other artists. Yet for him these were merely a collection of demos and outtakes that he recently discovered and cobbled together to offer as a reward to fans who contributed to a crowd funding project for a book he wanted to release.
Unfortunately the book plan was shelved (and the contributors refunded) but this ‘demo project’ remained salient and he added several more tracks to make an album out of what are effectively a bunch of rejects from his The Cleaners From Venus years that pre-date that actual formation of the band.
Spanning forty years from the mid 1970’s to present, these demos superbly showcase the muted lo-fi, jangling, home made aesthetic (all tracks were recorded on an old 1980’s, 4 track mono reel to reel antiquity) and endearing imperfection that are all wrapped around a lyrical poignancy that deals with the most normal that society has to offer. It is all perfectly imperfect heart warming jangling lo-fi that never veers away from the solid foundation of three minute verse / chorus song structures…and never should !

The true standout of the album is Red Guitars and Tambourines (see below) which is an outtake from a more recent album and superbly illustrates the Newell aesthetic as he opines the loss of the ‘rock n dreams’ of the a subject matter whose substance he questions by referring to them as merely ‘pretty boys’.  These characters are referred to as having ‘no destination’ and the beautifully subtle, almost apologetic jangled guitars that flutter in the background accentuate the poignancy of this typically superbly penned Newell pop track.

Through the album the lyrical poignancy and feel of the tracks hides a typically British sense of humour that exudes waves of sarcasm. This is prevalent throughout the album but attacks the hardest in the Luxury of Misery (see below) when he offers his best Morrissey impersonation, imitates the Marr jangle and ridicules the subject matter as crying into his ‘Happy Shopper lemonade’ about all manner of tragedy especially the BBC making a part of his town pedestrians only.

In fact, if there was any criticism about this album, it could be that the lyrics revolve around subject matter that is quintessentially British in nature and as such may alienate non-Brits. However such a criticism would be churlish considering Newell excels when he writes about what he knows and appears to cherish.

These are the normal reference points of the mundane existence that surrounds him. To take him out of that environment would be to deter from the very essence of a style that he has utilized for over 40 years. There is also plenty in the actual music for everyone to enjoy.

Newell has been critically acclaimed since the early 1980’s and his star appears to be rising of late with further acclaim being afforded to the 2015 Captured Tracks label release Tea Time Assortment compilation. This label equated the increasing love for all things musically retro such as vinyl and even the latest cassette movement may signal the rising need for the listening public to go back to a more simple, lo-fi and altogether emotionally warm listening experience.

Newell, The Cleaners From Venus and this album, provide just that.

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