Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tall Dwarfs - 'Slugbucket Hairy Breath Monster' 12"

Tall Dwarfs are a New Zealand rock band formed in 1981 by Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate who, through their do-it-yourself ethic, helped pioneer the lo-fi style of rock music. The duo formed out of the ashes of Toy Love.

The band lacked a drummer but would use household objects and handclaps to act as percussion. Either member can play guitar; with 12 strings and bass guitar often heard on their records. Both can play organ as well, which has been utilised on some of their songs.

Their debut was the EP Three Songs (1981), and for many years they released EPs only. The album Weeville (1990) was their first full-length album. They did, however, release a number of full-length compilations of their EPs, like The Short And Sick Of It, Hello Cruel World and Fork Songs/Dogma.

On their album 3 EPs (1994) (which contrary to what the name would suggest was a full-length album and not a collection of 3 EPs at all) they asked for listeners' rhythm tracks ("send us your idea of a great T.D. throb"). The responses came from many different countries and were used for the next album, Stumpy (1997) (that's why it was credited to "The International Tall Dwarfs").

Bands who have claimed to be influenced by the Tall Dwarfs include Elf Power, Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control. In 2005 they did a small number of concerts in the USA, playing with the Olivia Tremor Control.

Why listen to the Tall Dwarfs, Chris Knox or Alec Bathgate? Why listen to music at all? Their music is incisive, quirky, bizarre, interesting, definitely lo-fi, irresistible and beautiful. It is a cohesive sweet blend of pop and noise. This is the DIY ethic of punk (recorded at home) done well. The quirkiness is apparent in both the lyrics and the sounds themselves. In particular, the use of looped “non-music” or even toy instrument sounds is used to great effect.

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