The Dwarves - The Dwarves Concept Album (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Dwarves

The Dwarves Concept Album (2023)


What does Nietzsche do when he realizes life is kinda peachy? What does Charles Manson do when he decides that race war is wrong and everyone should just be happy? What does H.P. Lovecraft do when he ponders that maybe existence isn’t ruled by some nefarious hatred-God? In a roundabout way, the Dwarves shockingly address this issue on their new album.

That is, for the first time ever, an immense sense of joy radiates through a Dwarves album. The last installment, Take Back the Night was packed with nihilistic self-destruction and hatred of the human form. Before that, Invented Rock n roll searched for the creator of the greatest for of art, but throughout the path, encounter junkies, killers, losers, and big meanies.

Yet on The Dwarves Concept Album, that sense of venom and pus has been replaced with a sort of wonton recklessness and joy de vivre. Sure, sure, there are a fair amount of songs about violence- “Kill or Be Killed” argues for survival of the fittest, but it’s not in a sort of “look how bleak this universe is,” it’s in an almost neutral statement… or even a positive one. Darwin didn’t imply any sort of morality to the destructive nature of evolution and here, the Dwarves seem to proclaim that yes, existence is a competition, and that’s what makes it one hell of a thrill ride. In fact, the follow up track which comes a few tunes later, “You lose, we win” states then positive outcome of conflict. Yes, they are cocky, and yes, that is one of the reasons they are so great. Soooo many bands are falsely modest, all while brooding a sort of resentment or backstabbing nature for not receiving the correct “recognition” or greenbacks. The Dwarves believe they are the best and tell you they are the best and in doing so, become the best. It worked very well for James Brown, Little Richard, and KRS-One, mind you.

In other parts, the band is downright positive… and even HAPPY! Eve though there are twenty tracks here, each track is whittled down to the bare snappy necessities, so that tracks whip from tune to tune in the blink of an eye- but not in a hardcore charge, rather in an almost jingle-like songcraft: Make the point in a crystal clear fashion so that it resounds and then get the frick out. There are touches of hardcore and garage and new wave here, but this is one of the band’s most thumb-snappingest albums yet.

“Feeling Great,” which is a pop-punk number juiced up with a new-wave power synth, finds singer Blag Dahlia strolling down the street to a sunny beat while he talks about just how good he feels. Take out the word “fuck” from the song, and it’s not hard to imagine Fred Astaire walking down Lexington Avenue, singing and dancing to the tune. Wow! Though, to pierce into the song, Dahlia laments that no one loves him and that he suffers from neurosis, but here comes the big kick- DESPITE the negatives in his life and the universe, he’s still giving the thumbs up! Now, you can scoff and say the band with all the naked girls on the cover is just “shock” or “cheesecake,” and that they don’t actually weigh the human condition along the lines of the great philosophers, but you’d be wrong… and a dickhead. You can accuse Zappa, GWAR, Beefheart, and Devo of all the same crimes, mind you.

Is this new step a correction of the band’s former worldview or, in line with previous Dwarves records, simply a focus on one of the many facets of the human condition. Previously the band laid out the thesis that mankind is driven by the urge to fuck, eat, and fucking things up, and that thesis was re-evaluated and re-approved with “the dwarves are still the greatest band ever.” But, while that statement is a focus on the CAUSE of human action, is Concept a focusing of the RESULT of those drives?

Concept does make it a point to standout in the Dwarves catalogue. Sonically, with its salute to pop structure and new wave bounce, it is the band’s brightest sounding record by a mile. And on top of that, it has the most Dwarves love songs by a factor of about three. In 1990 the concept of a Dwarves love song would be incomprehensible. Now, the band who has spent the last twenty years arguing that their concept and image goes deeper than their contemporaries, have gone from Hyde to Jekyll. Well, sort of. I mean there still a bunch of songs about beating people up and banging and doing drugs.

There’s a famous mistranslation of Alexander’s contemplation of one of Aristotle’s lessons that usually goes: “Alexander wept because there were no more world’s left to conquer.” Between the hardcore masterpiece Blood, Guts, and Pussy, the pop punk masterpiece Young and Good Looking, the avant masterpiece Must Die, one felt that Dwarves, perhaps, had reach this deadly precipice. So, it’s totally fascinating, and unexpected, that the band would find new world’s to conquer, not in drugs and misery and violence, but in the sunny side of life… all while acknowledging that the darkness looms ever-present.