Monday, August 4, 2008
Tall Dwarfs - Hello Cruel World (1987) + 3 EPs (1994)
Pioneers of the lo-fi aesthetic and towering figures of the New Zealand pop music scene, the Tall Dwarfs were formed in 1979 by singers/songwriters Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate following the demise of their previous band, the legendary Toy Love. Recording on Knox's four-track machine, the duo debuted with the 1981 EP Three Songs, highlighted by the classic "Nothing's Going to Happen." The record was a hit, although it left many Toy Love fans baffled by the pair's new musical direction: Tall Dwarfs' releases were deliberately primitive, the D.I.Y. ethic at its purest — songs were all recorded at home (performed in bedrooms, hallways and the like) and defiantly experimental in nature, presaging the rise of what was ultimately dubbed "lo-fi" as the sound began to grow in prominence and influence over the course of the decades to follow.
[Jason Ankeny, allmusic.com]
Leaving the bulk of their catalog to the Flying Nun label, Tall Dwarfs have found another friend in the Homestead imprint for releasing this excellent collection of tracks from a handful of the group's rare EP's. The New Zealand lo-fi innovators are certainly well-represented with these 22 varied and top-notch sides from the first half of the '80s. With plenty of deft guitar, organ, and handclapping work to go around, fans new to Hello Cruel World will soon understand why it gave the Dwarfs their widest audience after being released in the late '80s.
[Stephen Cook, allmusic.com]
The Hello Cruel World compilation is the best way to get acquainted with Tall Dwarfs, but if you want just one of their other albums, this is probably the best choice. Recorded in 1992 and 1993, it has just as much variety as any other disc (compilation or otherwise) by the group, but doesn't wear out its welcome as much over the course of the merry-go-round. Some of their most spaced-out stuff is here: the fogged-over hurdy-gurdy waltz of "Bob's Yer Uncle," the stoner psychedelia of "Two Dozen Lousy Hours" (complete with warp-simulation sound effects), the white blues satire (how long has it been since you heard one of those?) "Postmodern Deconstructivist Blues." They can't resist succumbing to numbing repetitive lo-fi fuzz riffs from time to time (as on "Self-Deluded Dreamboy (In a Mess)"), but after a dozen years it seems unreasonable to expect that they'll grow up in this regard.
[Richie Unterberger, allmusic.com]
"The Brain That Wouldn't Die"
"All My Hollowness to You" (Live)