Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tall Dwarfs - Hello Cruel World (1986)

I don't even know where to begin in describing these guys, Awkward for sure, subtly outlandish and quiescently wild, Tall Dwarfs were a lo-fi kiwi indie rock group fronted by undergound legend Chris Knox that were pretty promient in the early to mid 80s and embraced a number of contradictory musical elements giving them a unique sound. They were also a staple band in the Flying Nun collective. They embody a panoply of styles, playing around with noise, then metamorphosing into minimal and quiet pieces, then hitting you with some awesome schizo-pop. At first glance, their songs are kinda just there; there's seemingly nothing special about them. However, after letting the album sink in after a couple listens you get a feel for their oddball weirdo vibe. The songwriting is abstract and rather unconventional and the experimental nature of their sound creates a distinct and dynamic style. One particular perplexity adding to their abstract sensibilities was the lack of a proper drummer. In place of drums they used hand claps or various makeshift household appliances. Some might argue that this was a poor decision, that the songs would have benefited from having an actual percussionist, but I think it adds a bit charisma and rawness and their template wouldn't have meshed well with a drummer.

Songs like the misogynistic "Woman" have a portentous ghoulish dance hall vibe, which gives way to the tranquil, calming "Shade for Today". Bizarro 3 minute long interludes such as "Louie the First," present a fresh palate for the more poppier tracks on this compilation, such as subsequent songs "Maybe" and "Pictures on the Floor." This constant transition of contrasting elements repeats itself throughout the compilation and makes for a very engaging listen, keeping the audience's ears perked. It's one of the those albums that you feel the need to listen to from start to finish. I might also add that if you try to take a nap to this stuff, you might just end up with a case of sleep paralysis (true story: actually happened to me once). Anyhow, potential sleep paralysis aside, Hello Cruel World is a rather comprehensive retrospective of the Tall Dwarfs' strange, deranged, but charming anthology.

Rating: 8.0


Best song on the comp, not to mention one of the best songs ever


  1. Hello Matt, I discovered this band thanks to your great blog. I only followed Chris Know work when he played with the Vibratirs. The Tall Dwarves look like very good. Congratulations for your hard work here. I just took the Clean selected discography from your blog, great post, specially regarding the ep collection, quite hard to find.

  2. any chance posting this gem again? thanks