by Mike Faloon
Here Come the Cars LP
De Stijl Records
Act One: A review of David Kilgour’s Here Comes the Cars (which originally ran on Razorcake.com)
David Kilgour is best known for his work with the Clean, one of New Zealand’s finest exports. Over the past 20 years he’s also released a slew of solo records. Here Come the Cars is a reissue of his first, originally released in 1991. The record opens modestly; the title track barely dips its toes in the water. It’s acoustic and sloooow and has only a trace of drums — but be patient, the payoff is coming. We’re up to our collective waist with “Fine,” which picks up the pace and has a more immediate hook. But it’s a bit like ocean water on the belly, it’s refreshing but you’re aware of it, thinking about it, awaiting more. That comes with the next tracks, three perfect pop songs that wash over you. The rhythm section pushes the tempos. Kilgour mixes in more electric guitars and the songs flow seamlessly. The closing track loops back to the feel of the opener and it’s only then that you’ll realize that you haven’t been able to touch the bottom for awhile. Side two is nearly as good. Here Come the Cars is like a great day at the beach.
Act Two: An interview with David Kilgour
Go Metric: What led to the reissue of Here Come the Cars?
David Kilgour: Mike Wolf and Clint (De Stilj) came up with the idea.
GM: Your debut album was called Here Come the Cars. Brian Eno’s debut solo album was called Here Come the Warm Jets. Conscious reference? Coincidence? Somewhere in between?
DK: No connection-but there are many "Here come" titles — Here Comes the Sun, Here Comes the Nice, the Night, etc, etc. With my title it’s a reflection on the seemingly unending onslaught of capitalism.
GM: The vast majority of the records you’ve played on — be they Clean albums or solo records — have painted or drawn cover art, often of abstract images. Yet Cars has a straight up photograph, a close up, no less. How did that come to be?
DK: I was going for the "singer songwriter" first LP look. Maybe it’s a hangover from the 70s! I must say the cover was a rush job and I don’t really like the photo!
GM: This question has a lengthy set up. I hope it’s worth weeding through…I love the way Cars is sequenced, especially the way side one builds up. To me much of this success is rooted in the fact that the opening cut moves ever so gradually, which is further heightened by drummer Tane Tokona’s ability to lay back so well. To what extent did he need to be coaxed into playing with such restraint? (I ask because most drummers I know are primed to cut loose, to drive songs, find places for fills. Yet his playing is more subdued than the most minimal Mo Tucker.)
DK: What you’re hearing is Tane playing his natural style. I’m not big on telling musicians what to do. I’m playing with fellow musicians because I like their playing, not what I want them to do for me. Tane's drumming is all about feel and detail.
GM: Here Come the Cars (1991) was released a year after the Clean’s first full-length Vehicle (1990). So after going through the ‘80s no full-length releases, you had two in successive years. I was wondering if the former had in any way led to the latter.
DK: It’s a good point and no easy answer. The EPs and 45s in the early days were cheap to record and produce, but in saying that we could’ve recorded a cheap LP on 4-track. Perhaps the fact that we had immediate success with 45s and EPs we just kept to the formula. You have to remember we had no idea we were going to be so "successful." It’s also not quite so daunting having to record, say, 5 tracks as opposed to an LP. Looking back we had the material to be able to make an LP but then again we made odd choices — like why didn’t we record “Getting Older” sooner (quite an old song by the time we released it), or ever record a "studio" version of “Hold Onto the Rail,” etc. etc?
If I remember rightly the 12” was kind of popular at the time — e.g. punk and post-new wave (not to mention disco etc.) like the Joy Division "singles" were released here as 12”ers. Goodness me, “Atmosphere” went straight in at #1 in NZ! Strange times, like the Fall’s “Totally Wired” (45 only) was a top 20 hit here! The list does go on. As an aside I think those 12” EPs sound pretty good, though vinyl in NZ at the time was of very poor quality.
On a tech note, the 12” should sound better the less tracks that are on it. Vehicle was recorded and 80% mixed very quickly over three days in London, thanks largely due to the kindness and motivation of Rough Trade and Geoff Travis in London. Here Comes the Cars was my first "big" budget LP, it cost ten grand to make which seemed like a fortune to me at the time. Having more money allowed for more time and therefore more tracks! And I guess with the tracks I had and with the success of the Clean I was reasonably confident of making a good LP. Some of the tracks for Here Comes the Cars were quite a few years old by the time I recorded them. I guess I had been stock piling, though I never had a grand plan other than make an LP that didn’t sound like the Clean, but not for me to say I guess.
I wanted soft edges and muted angst. I wanted it to be my ‘70s soft rock LP. I wanted acoustic guitars swaying with pianos and organs, I wanted tambourines ringing with the drums, I wanted reverbed vocals, like a soft drug, panadiene in the morning sunshine!