Why listen to the Tall Dwarfs, Chris Knox or Alec Bathgate? Why listen to music at all?
Their music is incisive, quirky, bizarre, interesting, definitely lo-fi, irresistable and beautiful. It is a cohesive sweet blend of pop and noise. It is music which will from time to time send shivers down your spine. It is also music that you won't be able to stop singing along with and humming once it's stopped.
I got introduced to the Tall Dwarfs when Pavement programmed Rage (a music programme in Australia). (Strange that it took a US band to introduce me to a New Zealand Band that's only a considerable swim across the channel!) They played "Turning Brown and Torn in Two" - one of the Tall Dwarf's early brilliant songs. It was what I'd been waiting for. This is the DIY ("do-it-yourself") ethic of punk (recorded at home) done well.
The quirkiness is apparent in both the lyrics and the sounds themselves. In particular, the use of looped "non-music" or even toy instrument sounds are used to great effect. I'm particularly fond of the kazoo myself.
These guys are the grandfathers of the punk movement in New Zealand. But they're much more than punk - when you listen to their music the English punk bands do not spring to mind. This is very much laid back acoustic music.
They're also great to catch live.
If you like Pavement, Sebadoh, Guided by Voices, Teenage Fanclub, Ben Lee, Grandaddy, Sparklehorse, Flaming Lips etc., chances are that you'll love Tall Dwarfs, Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate. The one problem is that once you've tasted these guys, it's hard to return to mainstream indie rock!
Actually, why not try out some of the other great New Zealand music. A good introduction is the soundtrack to the New Zealand film "Topless Women Talk About Their Lives" (no its not a porn movie!):
For details on how to get hold of the soundtrack, contact Flying Nun.
Whilst you're at it, you'd better check out a special Aussie connection.