Tall Dwarfs-3 EPs

October 28, 2008

Tall Dwarfs

3 EPs (Flying Nun 1994)

http://www.mediafire.com/?iiwj1ywjn5t

I cannot put my obsession with the New Zealand’s Flying Nun label into words. On the surface, the Clean, Bats, Verlaines, Tall Dwarfs, Chills and Magick Heads adhere to the same formula of many 80s and 90s indie rock veterans, but there is a rainy day at the heart of each band that never gives way to sun. Even at their most uplifting, I always perceive a dark cloud on the horizon of most songs. It doesn’t hurt that the aforementioned bands are some of the most eloquent of that era and make you wish Flying Nun hadn’t fallen into disrepair.

The Tall Dwarfs were always the most silly, adventurous and unhinged act on Flying Nun. The duo of Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate always displayed a fondness for four-track recordings, a DIY aesthetic and pure pop buried in tape hiss, but 3 EPs opened the door to new horizons.  The band invited fans to record backing tracks and fragments of instrumentation on cassette and send them for inclusion on these eps. They used these submissions as building blocks for each song, which is odd since it is their most solid and cohesive album despite the fact that it is a collection of eps.

The opener “For All the Walters in the World” surfs on a wave of la-la-las as Alec Bathgate does his best Donovan/George Harrison impression and embraces every ounce of sunshine that the star ever expelled. Although the song is all about submission to love and its power to transcend every humdrum detail of our ordinary lives. It seems like a call to all the Walters or average joes to give into their emotions and act on love instead of pondering it. It is a wonderful sentiment in my book.

“Starry Eyed and Wooly Brained” is another classic Tall Dwarfs song as it details the misadventures of a man dosed off his nut on some unknown hallucinogen as his mind races headlong into the sun that looms above him. It is a somewhat romantic ode to losing your shit and the childlike belief in the surreal visions that occupy your mind at such moments.

Overall, this is the best starting point for anyone unfamilar with the Tall Dwarfs as it features every facet of their vision. Drugged ballads, tape manipulations, catchy indie-rock and mellow meditations are take their moment on center stage and make you wish that the rest of their catalogue matched such heights.

The 6ths

Wasp’s Nest (London 1995)

http://www.mediafire.com/?eztmxiwxdnt

Stephin Merritt has always utilized the vocal talents of others to realize his artistic vision. His choices were sometimes a bit suspect on 69 Love Songs, but he usually has a great ear for who best coalesces for this tragic songwriting. His best collaborations can be found on Wasp’s Nest, the 6ths debut, but how can you go wrong with a roster of vocalists that includes Barbara Manning, Mary Timony(Helium), Dean Waeham (Galaxie 500), Amelia Fletcher (Heavenly), Rober Scott (The Clean/Bats), Mark Robinson (Unrest), Chris Knox (Tall dwarves), Georgia Hubley (Yo La Tengo) and Max MaCaughan (Superchunk)?

The music doesn’t differ from the baroque electronic indie-pop that marks his work in the Magnetic Fields. The lyrics doesn’t stray from his usual tales of unrequited love and romantic promises, but the roster of vocalists make this his best release. From Barbara Manning’s ode to the joys of the San Diego Zoo to Georgia Hubley’s rejection of a lover who can never compare to her own imagination, every element of each song is on point. The highlight is Dean Wareham’s take on “Falling Out of Love With You” which documents the dissolution of a relationship in a blase sort of way. I always loved the lyrics to this one although they sound better in performance than on your screen.

“In an old silverline
I was yours, you were mine
I was hoarse, you were mean
We designed drum machines

But every day in every way
Im falling out of love with you
Every kiss means less and less
Im falling out of love with you
Every hour kills a flower
Im falling out of love with you
You just bore me more and more
Im falling out of love with you

They made sounds much like drums
I was young you were dumb
Now youre older and im wiser
We design synthesizers

But every day in every way
Im falling out of love with you
Every kiss means less and less
Im falling out of love with you
Every hour kills a flower
Im falling out of love with you
You just bore me more and more
Im falling out of love with you”

It is playful, bitter, sarcastic and a downright mean rejection, but the music is so chirpy and bright that you find yourself humming along with each caustic word. Now that’s a pop song.