George McFall who is, regardless of hygiene routine, Clean George IV, created a stir back In 2007 with his single First Blast Of The Trumpet Against The Monstrous Regiment Of Women. Since then, he’s been quiet in terms of musical output but has found some time to work on a classical music degree, tour with Kling Klang, dabble with producing, and get sued by Kraftwerk.
With the help of his brother Tom (a well respected producer in his own right) and bandmate Tom Morris, George has finally completed his album God Save The Clean. The momentum gained by earlier singles might have been lost, but it has been worth the wait.
As a whole, God Save The Clean is an ungodly mess. It’s a mash of ideas, theories, emotions and musical genres all thrown together to create a strangely workable set of songs. George has a habit of swinging between viewpoints and genres creating an exciting unpredictable edge. In less careful hands this could have an unbalanced affair, but Clean George is focused and dexterous enough with his songwriting and lyrics to nail it more often than not.
A good example is Fat=Dead; essentially a bleak series of statements placed over an insistent creepy guitar figure. “It’s fear that keeps us trim…return to slender, fat equals dead”, he intones before stating “ambition’s got me nowhere” and then throwing in an exhortation to “hang yourselves”. Yet in the face of nihilism, there’s a ray of hope. The music opens up into an emotional roar and George suddenly becomes a beacon of positivity stating “in the towns that you live in, with the times that you’re given, do your best.”
This back and forth of emotions is not uncommon on God Save The Clean. Propelled by a massive guitar riff and Sparksesque keyboard wibbling, Cecilia takes a sledgehammer to the very notion relationships. There’s a lot to hate in the house of love we’re told, but even here George can’t help but add a wide-eyed addendum.
Real Men Take Speed proves that it’s when Clean George is at his most acerbic that he’s at his best. An anti-cocaine rant (or at least a rant about cocaine users) smacks the target square between the eyes and shoves a colossal dose of synth-infused rock right up its hooter. The demented blitzkrieg of First Blast….(based on a John Knox poem) is an invigorating mash of synth-pop and thunderous rock ‘n’ roll and is arguably one of the finest moments here. Pets In The Blitz takes a throbbing synth-bass and marries it to a series of descriptions of destruction and an earworm of a melody. The peculiar breakdown solo at the midpoint provides a brief moment of childish humour before the song heads into a powerful drone topped off with the wail of three-minute warning sirens. Winter Son meanwhile employs a direct pop-rock approach that manages to come off like Super Furry Animals at their most aggressively playful.
Despite all the cynicism contained within these songs, there’s still the laidback ambience of XP Avenue where Clean George acknowledges all those who helped create God Save The Clean by reading out his sleeve notes. That he does this in the middle of the album rather than at its conclusion and thanks the purchaser of the record for at least “listening this far” explains just about everything you need to know about George McFall’s quirky nature. Cynical he might be, but clearly he’s grateful that God Save The Clean has finally seen the light of day and with an album as strong as this, everyone else should be too.