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.

Matt Suggs-Amigo Row

October 3, 2008

Matt Suggs

Amigo Row (Merge 2003)

http://www.mediafire.com/?tmym3nmd9lc

It warms my cockles when readers send word that they truly loved something I posted. However, I was unprepared for the onslaught of three emails asking for the followup to Matt Suggs’ first album. Yes, three requests seems lonely to the likes of you, but I assure that they arrived in a fast and furious fashion that made me sweat a drop or two. I agree with all three of you. Matt Suggs’ solo album suggest what Stephen Malkmus actually wanted to achieve after he broke from Pavement. These are well-written, literate, moody ablums that keep one foot in the ironic 90s while poring through 60s psych in a way that somehow maintains the personal voice of the artist. I did love the odd arc taken by Malkmus on his Pig Lib album, but Suggs appropriations seem so natural and unforced instead of a decision to mine the past while sucking the teat of the profitable legacy.

Anyhow, Amigo Row is a close second if this anonymous lout had to choose between the two. There was a joy to be free of his previous band that lacks here. However, this one meanders in some more progressive directions. It’s a looser album due to the fact that he has used up his punchiest tunes of the debut and now must feel his way around to discover the next plateau. Fir the most part, it is successful. If the debut has suckered you into its humble grasp, then this is a wholly satisfying way to dig deeper into an artist who successfully broke free from his paper-thin shackles.

Matt Suggs

Golden Days Before They End (Merge 2000)

http://www.mediafire.com/?zy8b1bbiqvb

Matt Suggs comprised one half of Butterglory, a 90s indie-rock band that aimed for a comfy niche occupied by Pavement, twee and the Kinks. I always liked the band and their live shows were always appealing, but so were many other bands of their ilk. I know it sounds like a cliche, but their early singles were infectious in a way that their full-lengths were not. They were a good, but not great band that never rose beyond their influences.

I cannot really think of many 90s indie-rock artists that successfully managed to emerge from their fey, ironic cocoon, but Matt Suggs is the first that comes to mind. I ignored this album upon its release since I expected more of the same. However, Matt Suggs somehow channelled the spirit of the Davies brothers and recorded a thoroughly original take on the Kinks’ Something Else album. It lacks the bite and satire of this classic, but Suggs somehow found his voice and made one of the most unsung albums of the decade. Maybe I overrate it because it was so unexpected, but Golden Days Before They End kind of symbolizes a mid-life crisis for indie-rock to me. The old influences no longer held as much weight and Suggs responded with a gem that puts his love of country, Kinks, and melancholy tear jerkers on display. It’s an honest to goodness singer-singwriter album that tells a diverse array of sappy, sad tales while mixing in enough toe-tappers to keep things out of bi-polar territory. There is nothing about the album that leaps in your lap, but it is one of those albums that mimics an old friend and warm memory. It reassures me and I listen to it more than most album on my shelves. It’s a reminder of the moment when you realize that there is more than the music than the genre you embraced as a teen or young adult and discover that classic rock wasn’t quite the boogeyman you expected.

Tindersticks-BBC Sessions

August 5, 2008

Tindersticks

BBC Sessions

http://www.divshare.com/download/5112364-fcf

Just look at the kisser on this fella. You know he’s got some naughty sentiments to whisper into your ear at 3am. His classy sleazeball looks match the deep, sultry growl of his baritone crooning. Yes, there is an air of a bonafide “man crush” going on here. From the first time I heard Stuart Staples celebrate his hairy chest in song and weave a seedy tapestry of drunken sex in restrooms and wanton women, it was destined to be a music love affair for the ages.

I always was a sucker for the schmaltzy side of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The Birthday Party were too histrionic for my questionable taste and his screeching preacher tunes never excited me. However, I do love me some of his sappy ballads. “The Ship Song” and The Good Son album in particular still gets me terribly misty and sentimental. Since much of the Tindersticks work reminds me of a moody, orchestrated take on Cave’s most tender moments crossed with Lee Hazlewood, I tend to be a sucker for all of their work. Plus, the man sang a duet with Isabella Rosselini for gods sake.

This is a collection of their BBC Sessions and they don’t stray too far from the source material. The edges are a bit rougher, but Stuart Staples sounds even more desperate and pained on these live versions. Plus, it includes their cover of Pavement’s “Here” which eliminates the snarky irony and casts it as a baroque tale of a man at the end of his rope. I like the original fine, but this one possesses an epic sweep that Pavement couldn’t muster. Overall, this is a great introduction to the band since it includes mush of their best material while neglecting lesser tunes on later albums.

3Ds – Hellzapoppin’

June 26, 2008

3Ds

Hellzapoppin’ (Flying Nun/First Warning 1991)

http://www.mediafire.com/?jmxgj0z2umx

One of the benefits of being a youngster in the early to mid 90s was the major label rush to sign anything remotely related to Nirvana and Sonic Youth to a lesser extent. It provided such anomalies as major label deals for Foetus and the Boredoms and provided leeway to indie bands like Sebadoh and Pavement to fly obscurities like Dog Faced Hermans and the 3ds over to be their opening acts on tour. Yes, it also resulted in countless pretenders and imitators out for a buck, but when hasn’t that been the case with a genre’s short-lived popularity.

I haven’t really delved into my undying love for New Zealand’s Flying Nun label and how bands like the Verlaines, Bats, Chills, Magick Heads, Dead C, Snapper and others warped my young mind and altered my view of a pop song. I got to see the 3ds on tour with Pavement around the time of their Venus Trail album that was released on Merge. Hel, I may have hallucinated this, but i remember seeing a video for their “Outer Space” video on MTV’s 120 minutes. Go figure. I picked up the 3Ds’ Hellzapoppin’ album a few years earlier and fell in love with how they took inspiration from Sonic Youth’s noisier attempts at a pop tune and made it their own. Although it was a larger venue, they filled up the theatre with a kaleidoscope of feedback and were much heavier than their records hinted. Consisting of members of Snapper and Look Blue Go Purple, their albums are filled with unpretentious pop songs slathered with lots of noise and sweet sentiments. It’s a really catchy album that gets forgotten when put in context of New Zealand’s “kiwi pop” scene. Although their music was accessible, the band had enough rough edges and personality that their music still sounds fresh today. I guess I can cut to the chase and say that fans of pop songs buried in feedback with a few quiet moments in between will find much to love here.