The Dead C – Vain, Erudite and Stupid: Selected Works 1987-2005 (Ba Da Bing) 2006


It kind of disturbs me that I’ve spent a good deal of my life being a complete music snob and somehow I had never heard the best band in New Zealand until earlier this year. This is one of my most listened to records according to Mr Boo but I’ve been walking around all day thinking how I was going to post on The Dead C. The Katharina Grosse exhibition I saw this afternoon would be much easier to post on than this simple rock record (and that exhibition was basically large balloons and painted dirt for fuck’s sake.) Vain Erudite and Stupid is a compilation of hand picked tracks by the band. All bar a couple of their records are out of print and if your even mildly interested in experimental, free form rock then you’ll have no fucking choice but to buy this.

The Dead C are a three piece from New Zealand and have been around since the mid 1980’s. They were feted by Sonic Youth in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s but unlike many other friends of SY, The Dead C never made it big. Fuck it, that shouldn’t be a surprise and is there any wonder when you listen to some of the stuff collected on this compilation. The biggest issue I have is where do they fit in the never ending game of comparisons. The best I can do is Sonic Youth crossed with early avant garde Pavement, add to that a sprinkling of Throbbing Gristle and then make sure the whole thing is recorded live on a no-track cassette player. That’s my best effort. It’s stupid  but you should really go our and buy this. Words cannot do The Dead C justice.

The Sonic Youth vibe is really strong on the first disc and some of the tracks are remarkable. Maggot and Helen Said This I’m sure are hits in some alternative universe and despite their experimental excursions just about everything on Disc 1 is a alterna-rock song. Just really fucking “out there” if you know what I mean.

The second disc is a much stranger beast. In their later recordings the band abandon the need to conform to anything so petty as a song structure. Sure the production gets better but lyrics are (mostly) abandoned and the whole experience becomes much more unsettling. Voodoo Spell is a cracker of psychedelic, tuneless electronica. Head is a eleven minutes of a meandering Sonic Youth/ Kraut Rock style guitar jam.

The Dead C are being name dropped as one of the grandfathers of experimental rock and even the current noise scene. Sure there are a couple of experimental noise tracks on Vain but if your expecting to find the precursor to Yellow Swans then you’re going to be really fucking disappointed. The Dead C are a rock band but they’re so far underground they’re hitting magma.

9 Responses to “The Dead C – Vain, Erudite and Stupid: Selected Works 1987-2005 (Ba Da Bing) 2006”

  1. Pete Swanson Says:

    ah man.. gotta say that Dead C are probably the single biggest influence on Yellow Swans..

    especially those tracks Maggot and Helen Said this..

    funny that you dropped that..

    but really.. I haven’t heard this collection, but I’ve got all the old releases and Dead C is has amazing breadth, while maintaining their core “rock” orientation.. “Future Artists” is a great representation of what they’ve been up to..

    Dead C never “made it” because they’re from Dunedin.. which is a completely AMAZING town that’s on the southern end of NZ.. there are so many completely stunning bands from there that get NO due, because a lot of them never leave.. and it’s really expensive to get out of there.. and there’s not a lot of support for that scene in NZ.. it just exists.. in the work sheds of middle aged weirdos down there..

    I mean.. in a perfect world.. Dead C, Dadamah, Pin Group, Alaistair Galbraith, this Kind of punishment.. they’d all be household names.. and even the newer crop of jammers like The Futurians, Ray Off and Pumice would be moderately successful if they were from europe or the US.. they’re just so fucking far away…

    anyway.. along with the first couple Main records, the last few Shadow Ring LPs and the first mark stewart and the maffia record……. Dead C was absolutely the inspiration for Yellow Swans… especially “tusk”, “harsh 70s reality”, “the white house”…. and if you really feel Mouthus, the record Clyma Est Mort is probably their most outside, brain fried rock record..

    The deeper you dig, the more sense it’ll make.

    and with Dead C, the payoff is huge.

  2. noisenoisenoise Says:


    Fucking hell! How cool is this. Being called out by Pete Swanson.
    You’re bang on about the Mouthus comment and Clyma est Mort. The one thing I have of theirs, For the Great Slave Lakes, seeps the Dead C at times. This compilation though only has two tracks from The White House and one from Tusk. When I was writing this post I was thinking more of Live During War Crimes than Dreamed or Psychic Secession. I hear Birchville Cat Motel in their noise tracks (that whole pastoral noise ambience thing) but they don’t have that sickly sense of forboding that you do so well. Hell Pete you know people! How about getting someone to rerelease their back catalogue!

  3. Pete Swanson Says:

    man.. I don’t need to pull any strings (not that I can really..) because.. a lot of the old CDs are still in print and available from Siltbreeze here:

    all four of the discs they’ve got here are essential.

  4. Dead C is one of the most beautiful music around: harsh, simple as hell and one of the few bands which are loud and destructive as hell but still emotional and beautiful on top. I still don’t understand why nobody knows them.

  5. Bruce Russell Says:

    I just want to say thanks for bothering to post about us. Our whole ‘career’ has been maintained outside corporate whoredom by people who are up for a real art experience and not in it for a ‘career’.

    And a special howdy to pete Swanson for saying such nice stuff too. Cheers.

    Bruce Russell, Dead C.

  6. noisenoisenoise Says:

    Hey Bruce,
    Thanks for commenting and dropping by. I’ll be posting pretty regularly on the Dead C soon. I was under the mistaken belief that everything you did was out of print. Thanks to Mr Swanson telling me about Siltbreeze, I’ve just bought Tusk, The White House and Trapdoor Fucking Exit. I just tracked down Harsh 70’s Reality on ebay and the nice people at Missing Link are sending me your new one as we speak. Now if only I can find some CD copies of Eusa Kills and Clyma Est Mort.

  7. Hi Dave, nice reviews here. Yeah the Dead C are an amazing band, who had the misfortune/luck to be marooned out here in N.Z. I often think that if they had been from the U.S. (or maybe the U.K.) they would have gotten way bigger/more recognition, but the flipside of that is they have influenced so many N.Z. folks as to how you can go about recording, running a label, getting stuff overseas etc. So we are very lucky to have them.
    Also I don’t think Clyma Est Mort ever came out on CD, just LP.(Same as ‘Operation Of The Sonne’)

  8. Operation of the Sonne – a great one that often gets neglected in Dead C conversations…

    These comments are gonna get me to go pull all those old records out and give em another spin. All hail the Dead C!

  9. don henson Says:

    It’s great to know the Dead C have touched so many people!!
    If you are needing a recording of Clyma Est Mort or Operation Of The Sonne, please let me know. The only thing I cannot seem to find ANYWHERE is New Electric Music. I do have the s/t two disc release on Language Recordings though. It is a
    true masterpiece in sound!

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