Vehicle crystallised the DIY garage pop aesthetic, it made jangling folk-rock at breakneck speed that found ways to play without worshipping, knock-kneed, at The Byrds' back catalogue and it channelled krautrock and psychedelia into a unified whole. And they did it so quickly!
"It was all recorded live the way we'd done the other records. We set up, blasted through the songs, did a day's worth of guitar overdubs then a day of vocals, a day of mixing and it was all done."
The Clean didn't repeat that trick. They didn't need to. Their 4 subsequent albums have taken parts of that whole and made something different each time. As have many, many others. If you're looking for evidence of Vehicle in underground indie records you love from the past 20 years, then pick any 10 and the chances are that The Clean's sounds echo through many of them just as they do in new records released in 2013.
The constituent parts of Vehicle might suggest that The Clean didn't establish anything original; what they did do, though, was create an ideal representation of those aesthetics' possibilities.
Brian Eno said of The Velvet Underground & Nico that "everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band". Vehicle sold fewer copies than that, but it would be fair to say that thousands of people who've heard it have taken parts of it into the recording studio with them.
We have 23 years and counting of records that might not exist without Vehicle. Those records are more adventurous and stronger for it:
I think we definitely thought we were saying something back in the day and it was pretty confrontational with our sound. We didn’t hold back. It was, ‘Here we are, take it or leave it—it’s not going to be nice. It’s gonna be confrontational'.
Don't look for Vehicle Part 2, because it doesn't exist in The Clean's or anyone else's catalogues. Pavement did pretty well with Slanted And Enchanted, but that was a young band making a great debut in Vehicle's shadow. The sales ledgers might give Pavement or MGMT or Real Estate or...you get the picture...the victory on paper, but Vehicle is still, today, the most astonishing album. No one's come close to bettering it - thousands have been inspired by it and the music scene is richer for the suggestions and jumping-off points it's given.
If you've had the chance but haven't yet heard Vehicle I worry for you; if you have yet to hear Vehicle then I envy its manifold joys springing on you for the first time. The reissue is out now on Flying Nun/Captured Tracks.