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Tall Dwarfs - Weeville

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Artist: Tall Dwarfs

Album: Weeville

Label: Cloud Recordings

Review date: Nov. 20, 2005

Alec Bathgate and Chris Knox, who comprise Tall Dwarfs, spearheaded New Zealand's first wave of punk rock in the Enemy and Toy Love. By the end of 1980, the usual music-biz stupidity had soured them on the standard-issue rock dream, but not on music itself. So, during the ensuing decade, they recorded a handful of EPs using a 4-track and kitchen-sink rhythm loops for indie label Flying Nun.

That sounds like old news now, but they did it first, and the scene that rose up in their wake was so vibrant that Bathgate and Knox were perceived in New Zealand as kind of over-the-hill and irrelevant by the end of the '80s. Their response was the 1990 recording Weeville. It's full of Tall Dwarfs firsts; their first proper full-length album, the first time they took more than a weekend to make a record, the first time Bathgate sang lead vocals, and their first recording to enjoy a relatively current release outside of New Zealand (it was originally issued in the US by Homestead).

None of which matters as much as the fact that it was, and remains, a damned good record. The lyrics, which expressed a morbid preoccupation with bodily decay and outrage at the soulless junior-Thatcherite forces that were running New Zealand, are as apropos as ever. At the time, this record renewed the Tall Dwarfs and cemented their bond with a new overseas audience that celebrated them as lo-fi pioneers.

These days, Knox and Bathgate's propulsive riffs, percolating rhythms, and infectious melodies don't feel dated so much as they reside outside of time. This reissue doesn't sound drastically different from the Homestead CD, but it does include a swanky booklet full of cartoons drawn by the band which was originally LP-only.

By Bill Meyer

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Find out more about Cloud Recordings

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