Always a band more talked about than listened to, particularly in their New Zealand homeland, and not just because of their anti-commercial and experimental nature. The Dead C can command high appearance fees around the world but are still unknown here. Much of their recorded output is now out of print (the rest only available on import), and this twodisc retrospective serves the twin function of getting their sounds into the ears of eager minds who have heard the name dropped, and allowing the influential band to give Aotearoa another ‘up yours’.
Arranged chronologically, starting with their cassette debut Perform Max Harris and ending on ‘Truth’ from 2003’s Damned CD release, this anthology charts a career
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arc that roughly goes from early song-like compositions to their later and sometimes fully-improvised pieces. It’s a shame that their menacing revision of Marc Bolan’s ‘Children of the Revolution’ is not included, but plenty of the tracks (‘Constellation’, ‘Bitcher’, ‘Head’) capture the same weighty stomp. Much defies description, and the whirlwind of feedback and noise is cheapened by rhetoric. Listen for yourself. Guitarist Bruce Russell claims he can’t actually play, the lead instrument is usually the drums (ex-Verlaine Robbie Yeats), and unsuspecting audience members frequently assumed they were ‘taking the piss’. If you own three or more Sonic Youth albums, you
should have bought some Dead C well before now.
The liner notes feature hilarious song-bysong annotations by Russell, reminisces from Siltbreeze label founder Tom Lax and an essay entitled ‘Hated in the Nation: The Dead C vs New Zealand’ by ex-pat and current WIRE reviews editor Nick Cain. Until the Siltbreeze releases get reissued, and barring any more ‘warehouse finds’, this bargain priced collection is the best place to start exploring the career of a band who honestly couldn’t care less whether you’re listening or not.
Vain, Erudite & Stupid
Selected Works: 1987-2005