Toiling Midgets: A Smaller Tape CS


In stock



In 2015, Ektro’s vinyl subsidiary, Full Contact, unveiled a compilation of mostly unreleased studio material by San Francisco’s ultimate cult band, the Toiling Midgets. Procured from the estate of the recently departed and dearly missed producer Tom Mallon, the sessions that spawned this double LP spanned a trio of decades and myriad personnel changes. Following extensive audio restoration, it became obvious that the finished anthology, entitled A Smaller Life, was still too modest to accommodate so much indispensable history. But a partial solution has finally emerged, in the shape of a 58-minute supplement assembled for Ektro’s newly resuscitated cassette division, Ruton Music.

Toiling Midgets only issued three proper albums—1982’s Sea of Unrest for Rough Trade’s Instant imprint, 1985’s Dead Beats for the Joe Carducci-affiliated Thermidor label, and 1992’s Son for a young Matador Records—during an on-again, off-again career that has lasted 37 years. Hence the compulsion to keep digging into their trove of lost and commercially unavailable works.

Organized into a fierier, more rocking first half and a second side of moodier, atmospheric digressions, A Smaller Tape chronicles a sound that’s always evolving while staying true to Craig Gray’s basic template, drawn in 1979, when he founded the Midgets as the predominantly instrumental successor to his classic Bay Area punk quartet, Negative Trend. Despite the intermittent participation of two loose-cannon singers, the Sleepers’ late frontman Ricky Williams and American Music Club vocalist Mark Eitzel, the songs’ undeniable core is the friction generated by guitarists Gray and Paul Hood, in which concise, circular chord progressions fornicate with expressionistic smears. Set against the weighty, shifting rhythms of Mallon or original drummer Tim Mooney (also RIP), the pair’s elemental riffs and shivers of feedback transform into a timeless thing of searing majesty and bruising beauty.

Jordan N. Mamone, New York City
July 19, 2017

Side A:
1. New Room (1:26)
2. It’s Not Home (1:50)
3. Again (Alt Vox) (2:24)
4. Under the Ice (2:58)
5. Gods’ Man (3:31)
6. Nadine (Dance Mix) (3:16)
7. 17th and Misery (3:33)
8. Opus (3:26)
9. Rest Area (3:34)
10. Nein (3:16)

Side B:
1. Night Science (6:02)
2. The DJ Is Wrong (3:12)
3. Pétrouchka (6:56)
4. Soft Face (3:07)
5. In C# (2:46)
6. 567 (3:27)
7. Plywood Spaceship (2:51)