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Listed: The Dead C + Tall Firs

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Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: a very special Tuesday edition featuring The Dead C and Tall Firs.

Listed: The Dead C + Tall Firs

The Dead C

The Dead C.'s arrival in the late 1980s marked a decided shift away from the then Kiwi emphasis on perfectly fashioned songs and towards more abstract and pummeling experiments. As one-third of that band and the founder of the seminal Xpressway label, guitarist Bruce Russell has spent much of the past two decades turning the sound of New Zealand rock flat on its ear as an unparalleled guitar raconteur and supportive label boss who helped bring the likes of Peter Jeffries and Alastair Galbraith to international notice. After closing up Xpressway, Russell went on to run Corpus Hermeticum, a label that showcased his increasing predilection for blissful noise through releases from his own group A Handful of Dust and the likes of Thurston Moore and White Out's Tom Surgal. Though the Dead C.'s last full-length was 2003's The Damned, Russell has remained busy. 2006 has seen him assemble a glimpse of the Dead C.'s history for the Ba Da Bing compilation Vain, Erudite, and Stupid in addition to releasing a new CD-R entitled 21st Century Field Hollers and Prison Songs.

Ten cool things in no particular order

1. Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story [film]
Michael Winterbottom’s latest escapade is a film about a film about filming the unfilmable – and about Steve Coogan being an utter twat, which he does very well. Its hilarious, and while it helps if you’ve read Laurence Sterne’s book [which is one of the ten best English books ever written, from a short list including At-Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien, Lanark by Alasdair Gray and Giordano Bruno by Frances Yates] – you don’t have to have. It does really help if you’ve seen all Winterbottom’s films, which he references shamelessly – in this vein Tony Wilson’s cameo is especially good [we’ve all seen 24 Hour Party people, right?]. Winterbottom’s film slips from now to the 18th century to now without ever really depicting reality, even while playing merciless games with what ‘reality’ might be about. Not quite as convoluted as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but funnier.

2. Joe Boyd - White Bicycles [book]
Joe Boyd produced ‘See Emily Play’ and failed to sign Abba to a European-wide publishing deal before they became famous. I think he also managed to facilitate Clapton putting together Cream and didn’t get squat for his pains. Needless to say he has much more interesting things to talk about in his memoir of making music in the 60s. He’s especially good on how antiquarian pursuits such as listening to blues and jazz 78s informed rock music in the 60s, what it meant when Dylan ‘went electric’ [an especially difficult thing to understand from this vantage point in history], and how traditional folk music became hip in England. He also dishes it to Scientology. So even if you never heard the Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention or Nick Drake, you should buy this book, and help make him comfortable in his old age. Then buy an album by each of the aforementioned. Oh, he also produced Nico’s ‘Desert Shore’ solely because he loved the arrangements on ‘The Marble Index’ and couldn’t credit how Jac Holzmann dropped her contract. In fact ‘The Marble Index’ should be on this list as the coolest way ever to lose a major label recording contract, but since it has never been issued on CD, perhaps you never heard it?

3. Metal Urbain - "Panik" [music video]
Brilliant piece of YouTube footage showing France’s premier anarcho/situationist punk hooligans miming live on some tawdry French TV show in 1979. Great choreographed clenched-fist-raising, as they try fairly successfully to be cool against lurid day-glo virtual backdrops. Anyone not familiar with this excellent group should view this asap and then seek out their collected works on one handy CD.

4. Mark E Smith - Fall Lyrics [book]
Most Fall lyrics up to 1985 in both English and German on facing pages, this has to be the best indictment of most rock lyrics ever committed to paper. Quite why MES does not have an up-to-date collected lyrics in print escapes me. Nick Cave has one, and most of his efforts fall well short of MES’ finest. I can’t go on too much about why something like ‘Frightened’ or ‘The NWRA’ are in a god-damn class of their own. Not to mention ‘ndustrial Estate’.

5. Kain et Abel: ballet music by Henk Badings [CD]
Completely insane electronic witterings from the Eindhoven Labs of N. V. Philips’ Gloeilampenfabrieken, recorded in 1956. This is such fantastically simple tape manipulation music, it’s easy to love. The cheesy and the aesthetically thrilling lie side by side because at this point in the twentieth century no one could tell one from the other. I cannot easily imagine what kind of ballet would have accompanied this, but I’m having fun trying. There’s something so naïve and also brave about early tape music, I can’t get enough of it.

6. Ralf Wehowsky and Domenico Sciajno - Gelbe tupfen [CD]
Top-flight modern electro-acoustic compositions that are also a great listen. Based on Ralf’s recordings of his daughter singing a Christmas song, I think this is the second volume derived from that source. Brilliant example of a lot coming from a little. Ralf Wehowsky is simply someone whose entire career comprises a great big ‘how to’ – I hope you’re paying attention.

7. 25 Cents - "Don’t Deceive Me/The Witch" [45rpm single]
Primo example of the record as work of art. This 1982 disc an early Flying Nun label release, edition of 300 in a sandwich bag, with screen-printed and hand drawn cover. The screen was of James Dean in ‘Giant’, by now-noted contemporary artist Ronnie van Hout, back then house artist for the nascent FN label. The all-female garage punk group did early Raincoats on their original, b/w a cover of the Sonics 60s classic. Unimpeachably tough stuff. They were utterly obscure, but their 1983 reunion show at the Nile River festival featured not one but two versions of Pere Ubu’s ‘Nonalignment Pact’ – opening and closing the set. It simply doesn’t get more impeccable than that, people. That such a thing could exist in New Zealand of all places is a testament to how at that time our rock music was not just ahead of the world, it was in an entirely alternate universe. Such are the virtues of the kind of isolation that simply cannot exist in the globalised economy of today.

8. www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest [website]
This is the site I use more than any other. As a longtime Guardian nut, and the kind of guy who needs to be informed about world affairs at all times, I love to check it out whenever I have an idle online moment. The site has great usability, its easy to navigate, to read and always has loads of great information, which is always bang-up-to-date. They’ve really risen to the Web2 challenge, integrating blogs and RSS feeds etc. Everyone should read this. I just learnt that Kwazulu-Natal has a multi-drug resistant TB epidemic. This is the sort of stuff we need to know before it gets to our own back yard. Switch on.

9. The Silver Palm Leaf [appliance]
When worrying about TB in South Africa really gets to me, I can always pull out this great piece of British engineering. Made of steel, it looks like a pewter credit card, but it’s a pipe. Easily cleanable by whipping off the magnetically attached backplate, I’ve had one of these for years and they’re the best pipe money can buy. That it doesn’t even look like a pipe is all the better. Deserves a design award.

10. Concord guitar amps [appliance]
Still the best thing in electronics. The Concords were made in New Zealand in the 60s, many were copies of Vox amps. I have two, a Vox AC30 copy, and a smaller practice amp. The smaller one has original white vinyl sides, and is small enough to carry on a plane as hand baggage. The big one has a specially built travel case, and a few customised features such as a metal grille on the speaker for when I get carried away with my guitar. I love these to bits, they have the scuzziest, hottest valve sound imaginable. I’ve had the big one for 22 years and I will never need another amp. Its nice to know when you’ve got the best you can get.

Tall Firs

A fringe/avant folk trio from New York and signed to Thurson Moore's trademark-of-quality imprint Ecstatic Peace? You don't say! But don't judge these envelope pushers. Their songs have gentle riffs and a light touch that has made them beloved to more than just the Elder Youth, but Dusted favorites Chris Corsano, Jim O'Rourke, Alan Licht, and more. Tunes 'n Tour Dates can be tracked down at www.myspace/tallfirs.

1. Credence Clearwater Revival - 's/t'
It's hard to choose one CCR record, but somehow this one gets a little more play than the others. The one-man guitar battle in 'Walk on the Water' is wildly sick.

2. Mississippi John Hurt - Today
This is the record that made me learn guitar. His guitar and his voice are the same instrument, and his voice is as reassuringly mellow as Willie Nelson's. Like Lou Reed saying 'It was alright' 1000 times in a row.

3. Townes Van Zandt 's/t'
'There's no stronger wind than the one that blows down a lonesome railroad line/No prettier sight than looking back at a town you left behind/There's nothing that's as real as the love that's in my mind/Close your eyes I'll be here in the morning/Close your eyes I'll be here for a while'

4. Chris Corsano - The Young Cricketer
Chris is an old friend and played on our record. He has been erasing people's brains live forever, and this solo CD-R is totally nuts. I was brought to tears when I heard one of these tracks online. Am I a poseur for crying on Myspace?

5. Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska
Personally I also love the first two records with the overwrought lyrics and completely overblown arrangements, but we all dig this one. Best major-label use of extreme slapback I can think of since Plastic Ono Band.

6. The Shit - Give Up and Quit
The cassette-only second record from Annapolis, MD's most awesome. Vaguely like the Flesheaters. The first record was glued to our turntables in high school; this one was faster and angrier, and was on permanent repeat in the car. Lyrical themes include murders Psycho Mike would commit if forced to go straightedge, murders he's been falsely accused of, and what to do with Mike's body after death 'Don't bury me/Just pretend I'm passed out...'

7. Sandy Bull - Inventions
Still killer. This record was made in 1964: a psychedelic flipout from the same year as Meet The Beatles.

8. Lake Michigan Blues 1934-1941
I can't count the number of times this has been the last record put on at night, after everyone but Dave and me has bailed. Tampa Kid's 'Baby Please Don't Go' is the crushing version of this song. If we are still up when the record ends we just flip it again.

9. Celebration - 's/t'
These folks have put every audience I've ever seen them confront deep into a propulsive trance. The song 'War' is up there with Hendrix's 'Machine Gun' for pro-peace jammers.

10. The Secret Museum of Mankind vol. 1-5
I've been listening to these strait through over and over. Ryan described it as 'Pretty much the best music in the world, ever.' Powerful and humbling stuff.

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