David Kilgour: The Far Now

By Russell Baillie

Herald rating: * * * * *

As we stood, slightly sunstruck, watching David Kilgour and band meander pleasantly through a set in their early afternoon Big Day Out set, a young mate of a mate asked: "What band did he use to be in?"

The Clean, young fellow, The Clean. Pioneering they were. Flying Nun and all that.

And sometimes he still is, regrouping to play to the Nun-stalgic with brother Hamish and Robert Scott of the Bats.

But if that question would be enough to make us geezers sigh about the slipping standards of Kiwi rock education among the young, it was one to make you stop and think: So what?

This, after all, is Kilgour's sixth solo album.

It could well be his best and there's always been something immensely likeable about its predecessors, which started with 1991's great Here Comes the Cars.

There's not a Clean long-player that comes close to the best of Kilgour's recorded solo work.

Live is a whole other argument, best saved for the back row of a gig on the Clean's upcoming tour.

And another proposition. Of all the musicians of the original Nun-Dunedin generation, is Kilgour is the most successful?

No, he doesn't make lazy too-sexy-for-his-shirt lists in the magazines at home. But he's got a career out in the wider world, releases albums consistently, and has found himself as a supporting role in United States rock indiedom with connections to the likes of Lambchop and Yo La Tengo.

His last album, Frozen Orange, was recorded in Nashville with various Lambchopsters.

This one was done back home, split between DIY solo efforts and sessions with his band the Heavy Eights and the help of occasional collaborator and strings-whiz Alan Starret.

The result is an acoustic-powered psychedelic pop wonderland on which Kilgour sounds the least like that guy from the Clean that he has for some time - and the better for it.

It starts out on high with the dreamy synth-drone echoes of Sun of God and ends on an equally starry-eyed instrumental Out of the Moment just half an hour later.

Between, something magic slowly unfolds as it gently swerves from sunny folk-pop strumalongs (BBC World, Under Cloud, We Really Can't Get Along), gorgeous big-harmony psych-folk ballads (Wave of Love, On Your Own), wig-out pop (I'm Going to Get Better Lately) and one curiously lively dead man's blues (I Cut My Heart Out Once). While he's understandably more feted as a guitar player, here Kilgour's album lyrics can catch you off guard with their humour ("I can't get out of this song, I really could live in this song" in Get Along) or wistfulness (the Dylanesque Too Long From Me), even if some of the words disappear into all that sonic ether.

But it's one beautiful album and one that doesn't require any knowledge of the vast and ancient history of David Kilgour (surely the most rock'n'roll Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit) to get quite swept away by.

Verdict: Man from the Clean shines brightest on sixth solo album.

Label: Arch Hill

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