Tall Dwarves Weeville / Fork Songs

While the Clean and the Chills both enjoyed more commercial success, New Zealand’s Tall Dwarves probably had more influence than anyone could have anticipated at the time. In 1979, Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate formed Tall Dwarves and never followed convention, spending the majority of their first decade issuing lo-fi home recordings as EPs, and generally avoiding the typical pathway to fame and fortune. It was an ethic that rang true with many other artists and their influence was heard in the likes of Smog, Sebadoh and Neutral Milk Hotel. When they did make it into a studio, the results didn’t sound remarkably different from anything prior. The first studio recordings were collected on the Dogma EP (which is added to the Fork Songs CD) and included their pro-euthanasia anthem, "The Slide.” Not surprisingly, like much of the early EPs, Dogma is uneven but that isn’t a huge problem. Even better is Weeville, the band’s first proper album from 1990, where they were finally coming to terms with more conventional song structure. That didn’t stop them from adding fuzzy, psychedelic gems like "Ozone” and "Pirouette,” although the songs that endure are acoustically strummed with simple arrangements. 1991’s Fork Songs is a more complete record that is the pinnacle of the band’s catalogue. Both Knox and Bathgate are as focussed as they ever got and while it lacks any real stand-outs, it is consistently good. It hasn’t dated badly in the past 15 years. With a band that’s been together on and off for 25 years, there is no shortage of other releases that deserve to be reissued. And that could very well happen because the band toured North America last year (with kindred spirits Olivia Tremor Control) and continue to record new material too. (Cloud)