"Disliked in their native country of New Zealand, associated with drug-assisted hallucinations and blackouts, and evidently crazy enough to plan their own deaths, the trio of Michael Morely, Robbie Yeats, and Bruce Russell also happen to be more brilliant than most bands they're compared to. This collection is superb: competent enough to entice new listeners and pull in folks that already love their music and want more.
The first disc covers everything from their first album up and until 1994. Songs from out of print 7" records, compilations, and album cuts all make into these first 13 productions. "Max Harris" is the first song from this New Zealand trio's first album, DR503, and it's an oddly tuneful mess of sound effects, solid rhythm, and some very nasty guitar. It's designed to repel and attract at the same time, as though it is constantly pulled back and forth between absolute improvisational performance and carefully planned, obsessively designed songs. "Angel" wants to be a love tune, but is too busy reveling in the discovery of reverb and echo to sober up and say what it means. "3 Years" sounds like it was intended to be a pop song, but the group never bothered to record it outside of their garage. While these three opening songs present very different perspectives. It is as close to getting lost in a city as I can get without starting up my truck and driving into Boston at night without a map. In a magnificent way, however, the buzz of the next song, "Maggot," pulls this triad of sound together.
"Maggot" is a huge and rhythmic monster of droning bass with the mutterings of a drunk prophet ready to utter his final breath. The music is moody, deep, and full of sound despite being the product of a trio. It creeps along at a pace that feels contagious, like it's a disease. Then Morely lets out this demented laugh and I'm certain the group must've been absolutely insane to make something like this. This is rock music of some kind, but aurally swathed in the kind of mystery that other bands can only pretend to possess. The nature of their songs inspires a sense of the massive and the unreal but it never escapes into pure fantasy. There's a visceral edge to their music that prevents them from escaping into pure fantasy, into some completely abstract realm where the music has no context and no human impact. This is, in the end, the best thing about this band: they keep their weird side in check all the time, with slowly pulsing melodies and simple rhythms or sometimes with huge amounts of noise rippling through their otherwise simple and attractive songs. Everything on the first disc is a song, something that stays in my head all day long. All of these songs come adorned though, they're filled to the brim with interesting details, enough to keep me coming back to the disc over and over again. Keeping it simple is something The Dead C. does very well. The result, however, is that the experience of listening to their music evolves and becomes complex. There seems to be so little to this band on the surface, but once drug into their songs, it's hard not to find something new with each listen.
The second disc moves from The Operation of the Sonne album from 1994 to The Damned record released in 2003. Through these songs it's apparent that the band went through a transitory period right in the middle of the '90s and ended up giving in to their improvisational tendencies. "The Marriage of Reason and Squalor" is a 14 and a half minute adventure in feedback and strange effects that never really takes on the trappings of a familiar song. Even the brief "Voodoo Spell" is mostly aimless experimentation, perhaps fun to listen to when in the right mood, but after listening to the first disc, it's a bit of a let-down. Had I listened to the second CD before the first one, chances are I would like it far more than I do, now. The music isn't bad, but it doesn't stack up the all the goodness that the first CD provided.
This is, however, a minor complaint about compilation that does everything right. It introduces The Dead C. to the ignorant gracefully, covers every base possible in such a limited space, and provides something for the fan that doesn't want to spend half a year's salary getting the small pieces missing from their collection. It presents the multiple faces of a band that had, perhaps, too many of them to count and it does without flinching away from the more unadulterated and formless material they fell in love with later in their career. I'm talking about them like their work is done, however, and I don't think that's the case. They played in the USA in 2002 at All Tomorrow's Parties and in 2004 they played at another music fest in Scotland. They're also on board for Thurston Moore's 2006 ATP fest in the UK. I get the feeling The Dead C. hasn't seen their last release and if this retrospective is any indication, they're still a band worth hearing." (Brainwashed)