Saturday, September 13, 2008

Stephen - Radar of Small Dogs (1993)

"I'm a sucker for sweet little melody things. You hear them and forget about life for a few seconds" - David Kilgour

Isn't that just the most perfect encapsulation of David Kilgour's aesthetic? Introducing the long-awaited Stephen, a side-project of David's that seems to have been largely and quite unfairly forgotten by time. So forgotten, in fact, that I haven't been able to find the cover art to 'Radar of Small Dogs' anywhere! The image above is taken from 1988's 'Dumb' EP, included here along with six unreleased songs and two live recordings. All very enjoyable listening, indeed. Lovely sparkling, jangly guitars, trademark Kilgour melodies; just a gorgeous realization of classic kiwi pop minimalism. If you like this and haven't checked out David Kilgour's solo albums yet, get 'Here Come the Cars' and 'Frozen Orange' here.

- Ariel

From Flying Nun:

David Kilgour's idea of pop music was encapsulated in Dumb, the name he gave this band's 1988 Flying Nun EP. There was no self-demeaning intent; it's just that David subscribes fully to the Brian Wilson school of songwriting and believes that "dumb" is the essence of pop's appeal. It's not like Stephen were just the Ramones or anything, though. For a band that lasted just a couple of years as a haywire pop outfit on the periphery of the Dunedin scene, only making it up to Auckland in 1988 to record that QEII-funded EP, they did manage to add a little spice and a lot of spirit to the pop brew in their short time.

Stephen played a barreling kind of fast and loud pop music, noisy and rough around the edges. Their jet-propelled energy--David's songs and his big white guitar, with former Goblin Mix bassist Alf Danielson and drummer Geoff Hoani pounding out a rhythm that usually sounded like it was flailing itself right around the song--made this band a joy to behold. After Stephen Kilroy joined on second guitar, gigs in places like the tiny Empire got louder and better. The group fell apart partway through recording an album at Stephen Kilroy's Fish Street studio - David rejoining The Clean and eventually recording his solo LP, Here Come the Cars, while Alf and Stephen went on to form Chug.

The Radar of Small Dogs CD marks the reappearance of the entire Stephen Dumb EP, plus six tracks from the group's lengthy album recording sessions and a couple of live numbers recorded in Christchurch. The story is best told in the sound of the group on disc, all ringing guitars and growling bottom end, and in David Kilgour's wonderfully understated liner notes ("By now the band is generally seen as an excuse for lots of male bonding... I guess there is no direction apart from wanting to record good music and have some fun.")

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11 comments:

bk said...

thanks. saw Kilgour open up for Lambchop in Toronto a few years back. he was amazing.

michaelDUSTdevil said...

spiffing post sir!... i'll be back for this shortly... Mxxx

Rob G. said...

'Dumb' and 'Radar' have the same cover photo. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

thanks. I've been kicking myself for years for not picking up this disc the first time I saw it. I should've known better. The "Dumb" ep has always been a favorite...

Rob said...

Now that I think about it, I might be wrong about the covers being the same. Sorry, grad school is taking its toll on my memory.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. I have been looking for this record for years and I was just about to give up hope. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Any chance of a repost?

Anonymous said...

aha, I have the cd in my car as we speak, the cover is black with a grey vertical wave pattern on it, but ROSD has a card insert with planets and stuff that has the corner removed so you see a bit of the back over peeking through with "Stephen, Radar of Small Dogs" on it - sounds odd I know, but the whole album is odd. And good.

Gray said...

Even twenty years on this is still as relevant now as when it was released - some of the best power pop ever.

Sonic Tooth said...

Dumb ep is one of my favorite short bits of NZ pop/rock. I am constantly saying to folks "you like the Clean, you've got to check out Stephen..." Hard to find....i've got a pretty scratchy 12"...which I feel fortunate to own.

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