Possibly the most important figure in New Zealand alternative/indie/post-punk rock, Chris Knox has been an integral figure of three of the country's more important rock bands (Tall Dwarfs, Toy Love, the Enemy), as well as recording prolifically as a solo artist. He sang with one of the country's very first punk acts, the Enemy, in the late '70s. The Enemy didn't record, but his next group, the more new wave-poppish Toy Love, had hit singles in New Zealand. However, they broke up in 1980 after an attempt to crack a more international market by moving to Australia proved fruitless.
By this time, Knox, notorious for Iggy Pop-style on-stage self-laceration, wished to move from punk/new wave into more subtle, experimental underground rock. Sharing this desire was guitarist Alec Bathgate, who had played with Knox in the Enemy and Toy Love. Together they formed the duo Tall Dwarfs, lo-fi experimentalists with a penchant for both pop and psychedelia. Tall Dwarfs (whose activities are detailed in a separate entry) were instrumental in developing the quirky aesthetic picked up by most artists on the Flying Nun label, the top New Zealand indie that counted Tall Dwarfs as one of its first signees.
Although Knox has worked with Bathgate on Tall Dwarfs records since the early '80s, he has also maintained a less active, but ongoing, solo career in which he writes, performs, and records without Bathgate's assistance. Knox has had an ample opportunity to work alone given that he and Bathgate, because of their different living circumstances, are usually only able to record together for short, infrequent bursts of time. Undoubtedly Knox's solo albums are more personal in nature than his group projects, yet in all honesty it can be difficult to find much difference between them and the Tall Dwarfs records. Working independently, Knox also staunchly adheres to a lo-fi, home recording ethic; he also favors songs which alternate between acoustic pop, post-psychedelia, and bursts of fuzzy garage noise, just as Tall Dwarfs do.
Consequently, Tall Dwarfs fans will undoubtedly find Knox's records worth checking out, though on the whole the best of Tall Dwarfs is a better place to start investigating Knox's music. Within each Knox solo record there is a great deal of diversity, although it must be cautioned that there isn't a notable difference in approach from recording to recording. This can make his extensive discography less rewarding than those of pop auteurs who take greater care to vary their palette from release to release, such as England's Martin Newell. ~ Richie Unterberger