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Short of G.G. Allin, it would be hard to name a punk rock band that went further to establish a bad reputation than the Dwarves. Playing deliberately crude, high-speed punk rock dripping with bad attitude, the Dwarves -- led by vocalist Blag Dahlia and guitarist He Who Cannot Be Named -- matched their music with lyrics that celebrated all sorts of bad behavior, and their album covers almost invariably featured full frontal nudity. Add in the band's live shows, which often lasted less than 20 minutes and occasionally included a physical assault on the audience, and you have a recipe for infamy, which the Dwarves rode to a lasting cult following.
The Dwarves began in Chicago as a teen garage rock outfit called the Suburban Nightmare, and the garage/psych sound was partially carried over into the first Dwarves release, 1986's Horror Stories. After the first album, the Dwarves relocated to San Francisco and evolved into a faster and sleazier punk rock outfit, as documented on the 1988 EP Lucifer's Crank. In 1990, the Dwarves signed with Sub Pop Records and released their most notorious album, Blood Guts & Pussy, a ten-song, 13-minute assault packaged in a sleeve that featured two naked women covered in blood and a nude dwarf covering his midsection with a rabbit. Blood, Guts & Pussy became the talk of the underground music press, and the Dwarves blazed across the country on tour, leaving a trail of blood from their own self-inflicted gashes, a bagful of drug stories (according to popular myth, bassist XXXXX disappeared in Detroit on a crack binge during a 1992 tour, never to be heard from again), a litany of bizarre stage-show sex acts, and the wreckage of numerous 15-minute-long live shows.
The Dwarves unsurprisingly self-destructed shortly after a failed hoax; shortly before the release of the 1993 album Sugarfix, the band issued a press release stating that guitarist He Who Cannot Be Named had died. Sugarfix also carried a tribute to the guitarist, who in truth was very much alive. Sub Pop was not amused when they learned the facts and dropped the band, which soon went on hiatus. But the Dwarves re-formed for 1997's The Dwarves Are Young and Good Looking, and Epitaph Records signed the band in time for 2000's The Dwarves Come Clean. Four years later the band returned with The Dwarves Must Die, including guests Dexter Holland from the Offspring, Nick Oliveri from Queens of the Stone Age, Nash Kato from Urge Overkill, and voice actor Gary Owens. In 2009 the band began to work on a new album, this time recruiting past members of the band like Salt Peter and Vadge Moore to play on the album instead of an all-star celebrity cast, and released The Dwarves Are Born Again in 2010. The year 2011 brought the EP Fake ID, and in 2014 the troublemakers returned with the album The Dwarves Invented Rock & Roll. ~ Matt Carlson
- Chicago, IL
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