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Come clean with some psychedelic shoegaze dreams

Strawberries might seem like the ultimate complement to kiwis, that is, until you hear New Zealand band The Clean. Then you might fully fathom that it’s not berries at all that play the perfect foil to the kiwi — why, it’s got to instead be pop music.

The big-gun, lo-fi group, which formed in 1978 in Dunedin, is credited for the formation of the seminal Flying Nun Records in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1981 by wild fan and music store owner Roger Sheperd. The Clean arguably defined the sound of New Zealand pop (bassist Bob Scott even went on to found fellow influential band The Bats) and an entirely different breed of shoegaze, hand-tipped with brothers Hamish and David Kilgour’s punk-inspired chord progressions and melodic percussion.

Seven releases and several label changes later, The Clean dropped their latest, “Mister Pop” on Merge Records Sept. 8, pulling themselves back above the radar. Psychedelic and garage guitar saturates the sedated freak-out disc, drenching your stereo in a Technicolor stew of pleasantly distracted mashed potatoes.

Just like a 1987 prom’s pivotal slow dance number tripping on some LSD borrowed from Anton Newcombe, “Loog,” the first track melts the edges of your being with fog-machine organ and ethereal female whisper-singing.

“In the Dreamlife You Need a Rubber Soul” oozes astral, layered vocals reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine’s album “Loveless.” Lowmixed surf guitars conversely correspond with soaring twangs and explore the monotony of sporting the same outfit daily to a lackluster desk job, only to come home to a sterile, suburban home. “Factory Man” has a similar theme of accepting a seemingly mundane existence.

There are tinges of golden nostalgia-cloaked accounts with “Back in the Day” (“I’m not here for a long time/ I’m just here for a good time” is a good couplet to keep in mind in certain situations, you gotta admit). Yo La Tengo-ish organ-, violin-, snarepopping vrooming introduces the following frenzy of an instrumental track, “Moonjumper,” in a most seamless fashion.

The album’s second ditty, however, “Are You Really On Drugs?” is the only one that could be considered nearly a flop. It just rings too familiar to the ultra-awkward “We Are All on Drugs” from Weezer’s equally strange “Make Believe.” There are cute instances with the instrumental aspect — as there always seems to be in The Clean’s creative products — but the repetitive, “Are you really on drugs?/ Everyone wants to know-ohoh-oh-oh,” doesn’t do much along the lines of terrible fun. Also, the synthdoused vocals in “Tensile” is a little weird, but forgivable.

All in all, the album plays out with the completeness of a slightly spiked fruit punch afternoon of rollicking in lush New Zealand foothills — if that makes any sense at all.

Feel free to fill your ear canals with The Clean’s latest effort on Merge Records’ Web site with a free streaming of the entire record for a limited time and experience the Kiwi-tinged spectacle for yourself.

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