Throwback Thursday — Only A Shadow | The Cleaners From Venus


Andrew Younker

The Cleaners From Venus, a mid-80s rock band from England, recorded some of the catchiest — and most neglected — art rock to date. Due to frontman Martin Newell’s personal gripes with the music industry, the band’s music was entirely home recorded and self-distributed by cassette. Their stilted guitar riffs and minimalistic approach remain a pivotal influence for many jangle pop/rock bands, earning them a fair share of cult status and post-breakup recognition despite their nuanced success and popularity. As an ode to their immeasurable influence, Captured Tracks dug up their discography and rebooted the band in 2012, distributing their albums on vinyl and cassette.

“Only A Shadow,” sounds like if the Clash moved down river, threw out half their instruments and tried to formulate a song that would cater especially towards extra-terrestrial visitors. The intro guitar riff draws a striking parallel to just about every reverb-drenched indie melody post 2008, which begs the question, did they get it right the first time? Countless other great bands have followed in the footsteps of Martin Newell’s ear for melody and eccentric songwriting. MGMT did a cover of the track, along with Shitfather, the short-lived Captured Tracks supergroup from 2013. Above everything else, the reason this record feels so infectious and groovy: the bass line absorbs all empty space, every guitar note is effortless and clever, and the vocals absolutely haunting. Even as these instruments fit together in perfect harmony, “Only A Shadow,” is truly a work greater than the sum of its parts, hidden behind a sense of insecurity and shrouded in melodic anxiety.