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15 February 2012

Dead C - 'Eusa Kills/Helen Said This' (Ba Da Bing)

I love this, and thanks to Ba Da Bing again, it looks and sounds great. The cover is the most beautiful blur, just like the songs: a building, swirling morass of dissonant guitars both cloudy and clangy. And the mastering job on this, certainly a front-runner for "best Dead C album", is sterling. Drop the stylus on 'Scarey Nest' and listen to how the screaming voices ring out of the platter, and then compare to the flat-sounding CD edition. (Don't worry, we will soon). This is probably the most song-based Dead C record but it's as uncompromising as Tusk. It's actually fairly minimal - the production is top-notch studio recording, much more hi-fi than our various versions of 'Max Harris', and for this I am glad. I had this for so many years on CD so I never thought of it as two sides, but it's a classic rock album structure. 'Now I Fall' is the epic to bring Side 1 towards it's ringing conclusion, titled 'I Was Here' in response. The two songs fit together beyond their titles, thanks to the distorted Bigmuff vocalising and juxtaposition of rhythmic repetition with free-form swirls. And on the flip is 'Children', the destroyed cover of T.Rex's 'Children of the Revolution' (no credit given, of course). Often forgotten as one of the greatest cover versions, the Dead C are actually quite faithful through their destruction. 'Maggot' is the side 2 epic, a seemingly endless journey through glue-soaked guitars soaked in glue. The elegiac 'Envelopment' is a perfect closer - a strange moment of serenity. New Zealand may have never produced a finer album than Eusa Kills. But wait, there's more! Ba Da Bing has lovingly packaged Eusa Kills with the Helen Said This EP as a 45pm bonus 12", thus pairing what's probably the Dead C's finest full-length with their finest short-length. I remember reading about how 'Helen' was the Dead C's greatest song, which I finally found on the Trapdoor Fucking Exit CD, and though I don't think it compares to 'Power' or 'Hell is Now Love' or maybe even 'Scarey Nest', it's sure fucking great anyway. And like 'Scarey Nest' it has a drilling one-note guitar solo, though it's not so much a solo here as part of the general jamm/mess. We're back to slightly-better-than-Wakman fidelity and it's great, never stopping the tune from churning, lifting off, and eventually reaching it's tranquil extended coda. I remember seeing them live, finally, at the big crazy Thurston-curated ATP a few years back, and their freefrom Language Recordings-style sound slowly built into the hits. And when they played 'Helen' I felt like I had completed some full circle. (If I was hip to their sound in 1995, I coulda seen 'em in a small club in my hometown, but unfortunately I was still in diapers then, musically). 'Bury's on the flip and this is the tranquil, Stars of the Liddy beauty that these guys rarely attempt, but they do it so masterfully it makes you wonder what other stars were aligned in 1989 down there. This was originally released on Flying Nun, which is almost as mind-blowing as the music.

7 February 2012

Dead C - 'DR503 / The Sun Stabbed EP' (Ba Da Bing)

It starts off with another version of 'Max Harris', a bit shorter this time, and then segues into 'Speed Kills', as close to perfect as the Dead C could ever be. Because there's something contradictory about the idea of perfection here - this ain't Dark Side of the Moon, with it's overly-worked, carefully-EQ'ed guitar tracks. Yet the Dead C aren't a bunch of tossed-off nonsense, despite what many listeners might think. "Deliberate" is maybe a better word; everything you hear is done for a reason. These slow moans from the south island of New Zealand are as radical and distinct of an aesthetic vision as anything by, say, Black Sabbath or Van Morrison. There's nods to their predecessors, the Velvet Underground of course the obvious one (though I make the mistake of associating any spoken vocalisations with 'The Murder Mystery' - see 'The Wheel' here). But the interplay and dialogue of the guitars and the rhythms is so masterful that I actually put the Dead C on a level with artists like Can or the Miles Davis band - a total mindmeld of communication. This is another lovely Ba Da Bing vinyl reissue, combining the DR503 album (which is different, partially, then the DR503C compact disc that will be shortly addressed on Glass Mastered Cinderblocks) and the great, great 'Sun Stabbed' EP (which spins here as a separate 45rpm 12"). 'Three Years' appears on both, but I'll take the epic version of it from the EP. It's significantly more spacious, allowing Morley's voice to soar as only it can. Also notable is 'Bad Politics', a sloppy, awkward punk rock song that foreshadows the vs. Sebadoh 7" (which will be shortly addressed in Denial Embriodery soon). In between we get booming, lush guitars - how did Ba Da Bing manage to master these so well?  It's hard to believe this could even be possible given the source materia. 'I Love This' could work as a masterpiece of minimalist guitar composition if presented as such, but here it's "mere" filler. DR503 ends with 'Polio', which sounds like a remnant from Morley's association with This Kind of Punishment. Maybe that's just the sound of the south island, but these gloomy chord progressions are iconic of some lost mysterious soundworld and still speak volumes to me today. And this release just absolutely slays; there's enough of a song basis that we haven't merged into the territory of The White House yet, let alone Tusk (though those are also great records); and there's little details like the use of the acoustic guitar in 'Polio' and 'Speed Kills' that situates this in an ambience that is absolutely magical and odd.