Thursday, January 19, 2006

Tall Dwarfs/Weeville/Fork Songs/7.0/6.9

"When we spotlight reissues like these, it's usually for one of two reasons: Either the music is historical (seminal, groundbreaking, definitive, influential), or it's the exact opposite -- unique enough to stand outside time, feeling just as distinct and fascinating today as it did when first released."

Every New Year, I make a list of things I want to get done in the coming year. Usually, the year passes by and there are few checkmarks on that list. This year, I wanted to point out a good PFM review and Nitsuh Abebe has made it easy for me. His review is solid, well written and well thought out - even if I disagree with it a little, I can't find any fault in it.

Rather than pad the review with a clever intro, Abebe starts with a nice explanation of the rationale for reviewing reissues. This leads into a discussion of why these reissues merit review. The whole topic of reissues has been on my mind for the last couple of week. With so many reissues on CD - in fact whole labels devoted to them - as well as digital only reissues, I've been wondering why and how they're important and whether or not they merit coverage. It's gratifying to see someone at PFM thinking about the same thing and putting those thoughts clearly into words.

Abebe has done some homework on the Tall Dwarfs as well. Providing a modest amount of background - especially on a more obscure reissue- helps give the reader some idea of musical context. It also gives me more confidence that the reviewer has put some serious work into the review.

As far as the review of the CDs, I've only listened to the Fork Songs CD. When I'm dispassionate about the CD, I have to agree with the reviewer. These reissues are for Kiwi-rock completists or perhaps avid fans of lo-fi pop. I don't think that I'll be playing this CD for many friends, scanning their faces for a look of enjoyment.

Dropping my objectivity, I freely admit that I have a soft spot for the Land of the Long White Cloud. I lived in New Zealand as an army brat. When records from Flying Nun began winding their way across the Pacific in the eighties, I was smitten. The Verlaines, the Chills and the Tall Dwarfs seemed to come from some strange alternate universe of Rock. While the Flying Nun imports were outrageously expensive, I snapped up domestic releases on Homestead. Unfortunately, the Tall Dwarfs output in the late 80's were mostly very pricey, import-only eps - an expensive proposition for a poor college student. Since then, most of that material has been terribly hard to obtain, especially on CD. To have two CDs with the Tall Dwarfs later material is a true treasure to me. That "diverse crowd" of "unreconstructed record geeks"? I'm a member. Guilty as charged.

How would I rate Fork Songs? The dispassionate side - the side that would be reluctant to play this for friends at dinner - agrees with Abebe's rating. However, the Kiwi rock fanatic in me would bump each rating by a full point, open up a Lemon and Paeroa and fasten his head phones in anticipation of bliss.