The Sinister Cleaners

The Sinister Cleaners were kind of a Leeds supergroup in reverse – made of people who went on to be better known for other things. John Parkes as a session musician and with bands such as Whole Sky Monitor as a distinctive guitarist, Len Liggins with the Wedding Present and latterly The Ukranians (ever heard their Ukranian Smiths cover versions?!), Simon Smith with the Weddoes and the rather spiffing Beach Buggy. Andrew Middleton is the least known of the four.

Len has a very distinctive sound and there are songs you could mistake for Weddoes songs from the sardonic lyrics, vocals and Andrew’s busy drums. It all sounds very much of its time (the eighties) but trails roots across two decades since there are still bands with these influences around. This was a time when Yorkshire was a depressed county, feeling the brunt of Thatcher’s class war on the miners. In the Leeds of the time, they turned out a series of 7”, 12” singles and EPs before giving up on the project twenty years ago to turn their energies to other projects.

This is a retrospective complete collection of releases and ranges widely to the nooks and corners of eighties indie. That’s a result of the three songwriters, squished into one band. Each songwriter has his own style. Calling Home is twangy indie, becoming impelling. “I’m old enough” they sing but, looking back they’ll never be as young again…. I’ll Never Forget This is a reflection on time passing, as is the elegiac Longing For Next Year. Monkey And The Typewriter is the traditional refusal to conform and get a career. Such unconformity cost them a few deals and led, ultimately to the band’s demise but at least they split before they ran out of ideas. Bleed has Len’s imprint stamped on it and could pass for a Wedding Present song. Life With The Sexes is a kitchen sink drama in black and white (you know anything over twenty years back has to be in monochrome, don’t you?). I love the opening lines of Complication Day – “Wake up to the sound of sex-performing neighbours / I didn’t think Christians could have a good time”. Songs like 1941 and When I Feel Strange are frantic and speedy, others, like Crazies #3 and #1 are rockabilly-based, Atlantic Satellite owes a debt to Orange Juice & Edwyn Collins.

A collection of surprising quality, offering a taste of bands that were then yet to be. And a must for Ukranians fans and followers of the much-mentioned Weddoes.

Ross McGibbon