Newell's choice to use underground distribution networks made sense. He and his musicians were too eccentric and, at times, experimental to withstand the homogenizing influence of record companies. What they lacked in technique -- the early tapes often have a hissy sound and thumpy percussion -- they more than made up for in pure heart. Newell, who wrote and sang virtually all of the material, is a tuneful British eccentric in the mold of Ray Davies or Andy Partridge of XTC, with a humor akin to Monty Python or the Bonzo Dog Band. Cleaners from Venus couldn't be pigeonholed as revivalists, however, due to the '80s jangle of the guitars and the expressively yearning qualities of Newell's vocals; the melodies were almost always infectious and bursting with harmonies.
Newell's main partner in the early days of Cleaners from Venus was drummer Lol Elliott. By the mid-'80s, Martin had hooked up with the more conventionally skilled pianist Giles Smith, and the Cleaners' recording techniques had improved to the level of "real" records. One result was the glorious Living with Victoria Grey tape, with uniformly strong songs that usually reflected pastoral English life with affectionate irony. Another result of their (by cassette underground standards) increasing success and popularity were deals to produce bona fide vinyl LPs for record labels; they even got a deal with RCA in Germany. Almost predictably, the records, with bigger budgets and increased attention to audiophile concerns, sounded a bit mechanical and whitewashed compared to the cassettes, even when the Cleaners were re-recording material that had originally been released on tape.