The Best Fucking Collaboration Week Ever, Pt. 2
Mike and Aaron are doing simultaneous daily reviews of albums that these two intrepid music reporters have sent to each other. Buckle up, buttercups, it’s gonna be a blast!
“You guys do like to drink, don’t ya? You are Canadian aren’t ya? Most of us are Canadian in here, except for there’s one guy that I know of. Security!” — Russ Dwarf
KILLER DWARFS – Reunion of Scribes Live 2001 (2002 Bullseye)
Aaron scored this for cheap at his “junk shop” and passed it down to me. It was the only Killer Dwarfs CD I was missing — and for good reason. I had the chance to hear it once, at the Record Store, while I was working for a stretch in Hamilton. I didn’t think much of it then. Has anything changed?
The Killer Dwarfs quietly went extinct after their final studio album, 1992’s Method to the Madness. 10 years later, the band reunited including Mike (Hall) Dwarf, who had actually left the band prior to 1992. This is a full reunion of the classic lineup: The Dwarfs Russty, Mike, Darrell and Bad Ronbo. Let’s “Go DuNK” and see what the Killer Dwarfs 2001 sounded like. At one hour and 11 minutes, Reunion of Scribes is the longest Killer Dwarfs album to date.
Strangely enough for a Canadian band, the concert begins with a recording of “The U.S. Air Force” (also known as “The Wild Blue Yonder”) before the band emerges with a limp version of their own “Dirty Weapons”. What’s the problem? It’s certainly not Russ Dwarf, who sounds vintage strong. The guitar is too thin, and blemished with sour notes here and there. Hey, it’s been a long time since Mike was a Dwarf! The drums also sound disconnected from the song from time to time. Chock it up to a bad recording? (At the Docks, in Toronto.) “Stand Tall” also suffers: the guitar needs to be front and center. The sound of the band suddenly becomes sparse and weak every time Mike Dwarf stops playing the riff in order to lay down a solo. The bass isn’t fat enough to fill the gap.
Another weakness to this recording is a concentration on songs from 1988-1992. There’s nothing at all from their first self-titled album, even their first single “Heavy Mental Breakdown”, the song that helped put them on the map. Instead the Dwarfs focused on more radio-friendly later music for this set. Of that tunage, most of the hits are here: “Stand Tall”, “Keep the Spirit Alive”, “Dirty Weapons”, “Doesn’t Matter”, “Hard Luck Town”. Their first big label single, “We Stand Alone” is missing from the set, which instead includes lots of notable album cuts. The best of these include “Believe in Me” from their second album Stand Tall. Russ Dwarf’s ageless voice delivers hard-edged numbers like “Starting to Shine”, “Last Laugh”, “Nothin’ Gets Nothin'”, and “Comin’ Through” with all its usual intensity.
The most emotional moment (for fans) has to be the ballad “Doesn’t Matter”. “Roll the dice and play the game, for the fortune and the fame.” The Dwarfs did roll the dice, at least they tried. “Doesn’t Matter” is a pretty simple lyrically: get out there and give’r.* The live recording doesn’t deliver its full power, but I do get the feels to hear them return to Toronto and play this song for their friends.
Most of these songs are still high-quality hard rock workhorses. While Russ Dwarf brings it all and then some, the poor recording renders Reunion of Scribes an album that will only get infrequent plays at LeBrain HQ.
* The Killer Dwarfs are the only band I can think of who actually used the word “give’r” in a song lyric.