David Kilgour

ShiveringHere Come The Cars
CrazySugar Mouth
Locked In BlueDavid Kilgour & the Heavy Eights
Today Is Gonna Be MineA Feather In The Engine
Instra 2 RepriseA Feather In The Engine
Gold In SoundFrozen Orange
Blue SkyFrozen Orange
YeniseiThe Far Now
ChordFalling Debris
Way Down HereLeft By Soft


David Kilgour playlist



Contributor: Keith Shackleton

The renaissance of The Clean from 1988 through 1990 also gave impetus to the solo career of their lead guitarist, David Kilgour. Since the dissolution of the band in the early 80s, he’d worked with other Clean members as The Great Unwashed, and instigated another side project, Stephen (the rare 1988 EP Dumb is a little jangle-pop gem). When The Clean’s mighty Vehicle album hit the stores, however, Kilgour embarked on a prolific run, releasing eight excellent albums in various guises through two decades of activity. Why should you give this Topper Ten a go? Because the man knows the value of a good tune (and has written some corkers) but can also lash out with sonically scribbling mayhem. Quiet/loud. The calm and the storm. Country and western.

1991’s Here Come The Cars does what you’d want a solo debut to do … it stands on its own and says “Here I am, here’s what I can do”. Typical of much of the album, Shivering has many layers, fuzzy guitar solos and Kilgour’s heartfelt vocals pop up and penetrate the gauzy production, and more is revealed on every listen.

Sugar Mouth, from 1994, is a more ebullient, effervescent record. It hasn’t always had the best reviews but I have no idea why. If your bag is fizzy shoegazy guitar pop, this is an album that should be in your collection. Crazy is a pell mell blast of a song that never lets up; it has that roiling Clean-styled rhythm and when Kilgour soaringly lets rip on that trademark rectangular guitar, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, life suddenly feels good.

From his first album with the Heavy Eights line up, I’ve picked Locked In Blue, which rather splendidly rumbles and drones along in motorik fashion, with backing vocals from the wonderful Barbara Manning (fans of Cat Power et al should seek out Barbara’s unfortunately scarce In New Zealand record, which is a gem), but there are varied highlights throughout 1997’s David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights. Chop Me in ½ has a kind of overloaded West Coast feel (quiet/loud again, there’s a little bit of Neil Young in it), Round The Bend is a swirling gently psychedelic stroll, but Locked In Blue is the one I come back to time and again.

We’ve had some great songs so far, but on the next two albums, Kilgour really nails it. I’m picking two from each but could have chosen more. A Feather In The Engine from 2001 is brilliant psychedelic pop. Today Is Gonna Be Mine breaks out the flugelhorns and the sixties throwback “ba da ba ba ba-aa” vocals over a looped drum track, and then we drop into the lysergic string-driven Instra 2 Reprise. No throwaway this despite the title: the delightful orchestral arrangement is the work of The Verlaines’ Graeme Downes, and Kilgour takes a toke and muses “Plants think it’s spring in autumn, bloomin’ all around me, snow is cocaine falling, knocks me right out”. Groovy, baby.

2003’s Frozen Orange was largely recorded in Nashville, and I make it Kilgour’s best work. Gold In Sound is a dreamlike soft-rock confection, filigree backing vocals rounding out the gentle tune. It’s Steely Dan without the snark. Blue Sky is a country ramble with some rocketing slide guitar embedded in the mix. The wide open spaces evoked here are those in the South Island of New Zealand rather than the wild west (though, as the song concedes, there’s “blue blue sky all over the world”).

A little bit of Kiwi trivia, folks: the title of David Kilgour’s 2007 album is a colossal pun. Very roughly pronounced ‘far-now’, whanau is the Maori word for your extended family. So from The Far Now, I’ll pick Yenisei. I’ve not yet mentioned a Velvets influence either in this article or in The Clean top ten (see toppermost #262), but it’s there, and the monologue on this track has a Lou Reed intonation, albeit softer and airier.

In the same year, Kilgour met New Zealand poet Sam Hunt (think … ooh, I dunno … a cross between Adrian Henri and Keith Richards) via a chance meeting in Dunedin Airport, and they mooted working together. Kilgour gave it a bash, singing along to Hunt poems old and new… some of them worked and some of them didn’t. But from the ones that definitely did, on the 2009 collaboration Falling Debris, I’ll have Chord – it’s beautiful, with the extra added frisson of Hunt’s lyric.

And finally, Cyril … we have the second Heavy Eights release, Left By Soft (2011), and another graceful collection. Way Down Here is a standout; barely controlled feedback building behind processed vocals hint at a quiet storm of a tune, but no, the song builds the pressure and breaks out into a noisy glam stomp. I should also mention Kilgour’s nifty way with an instrumental … this record is bookended by two fine ones, the title track and also Purple Balloon.

And the man is busy recording right now – there will be a new album along in August this year. Before that drops, give the solo work of David Kilgour a go via these ten beauties: you won’t regret it.


The music and art of David Kilgour – official site

“Chord” available for free download on David Kilgour’s website

The Clean Toppermost #262

David Kilgour biography (Apple Music)

Keith Shackleton is still suspicious of albums over 40 minutes long. Follow him on Twitter @RiverboatCapt and read more of his musings on music at his website.

TopperPost #285

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.