The Dickies – Camden Underworld

By paul

The Dickies
Wednesday 23 July 2009
The Underworld, Camden
Support: Vanilla Pod + Love and a .45 + Jimmy & The Destroyers

Ever seen two grown men tussle over a hand puppet shaped like a penis? It?s a bizarre scene, cringe-worthy almost, and certainly not your everyday punk experience. Welcome to the world of The Dickies. For 30 plus years the band has been serenading crowds with silliness and immaturity. It?s proper pop punk wrapped up in a goof?s bow. Why then should tonight be any different?

First up, before all the drama, JIMMY & THE DESTROYERS opens the show with a set of self-proclaimed ?surfcore? that, as intriguing as it is, doesn?t really ignite things. Without a doubt there?s some serious guitar talent on show but it?s more likely, thanks to a lack of vocals, to provoke mild curiosity rather than genuine interest. Perfect if you like your Tarantino soundtracks though. (2/5)

When a band hasn?t played together in a while it tends to show. LOVE AND A .45 hasn?t played together in a while and it shows. Alongside a few missed spots and a couple of miscues, singer Kate Moritz?s has a set-long wrestling match with her mic-stand. Add to this some early issues with vocal levels and you have something of an inauspicious start. Still, by mid-set the band?s Distillers/Civet-esque brand of pop singed punk rock is starting to sound like it should with ?Sold Or Seen? sounding particularly spiky. A transition period lies ahead but this London quartet has the tools to improve on the potential already built up. (2.5)

VANILLA POD deserves all the plaudits going. 14 years on and the band is still hanging in there, playing melodic punk rock like it went out of fashion (did it?) and sounding damn good for it. It?s true, things have quietened down: unless you live in a handful of towns (mainly in native East Anglia) you probably haven?t seen the Pod play in years, but tonight there?s something new to the set. Well, actually there?re two new things. First, we?re treated to new songs. That set the band has been hauling around for four years has finally been divvied up and we?re promised a new album (E.T.A. October, this year!). Secondly, there?s an enjoyment on the face of each of the band members (including bloodied handed guitarist Leon Muncaster) that suggests a vitality returned. Across 40 minutes we get Vanilla Pod with a bounce, a swagger, and in closing pair ?Surrounded By Idiots? and ?Dead End Town? we?re reminded just how good a back catalogue the band has pumped out. There?s life in this old dog yet. (4)

Tonight Punktastic has staked a spot next to what can best be described as a box of tricks. The toy chest of gorilla masks, blow-up dolls and devil horns makes for THE DICKIES stage props. That?s right, props. The Californian stalwarts don?t exactly play the punk game the same as anybody else, and judging by the crowd response that?s exactly the way it?s supposed to be. The band has drawn a rowdy throng with a demographic twice that of the majority of Underworld shows lately. The front row makes for the most varied cavalcade of punters: a bare-chested, tattooed monster of a fifty year old stands side-by-side with a couple of long-hair, horn throwing teens, and a pair that look like they?ll be knocking on your front door soon offering you a copy of ?The Watchtower?, one of whom is coined by VP?s Rob Bunting as Tom Hanks from ?The Davinci Code?. Each one of them is awed by a performance that is tacky and foolish, but all the better for it.

In terms of setlist this is pretty much standard fare (why fix it if it?s not broken?). The likes of ?Bowling with Bedrock Barney? and ?Gigantor? are thrown in there alongside the usual blend of speed-punk interpreted covers (Black Sabbath?s ?Paranoid?, anyone?) and more than a healthy dose of banter, which at times divulges a tiredness in singer Leonard Graves Phillips. If you?ve ever heard one of the band?s live albums (there?re enough of them) you?ll know exactly what to expect. The intriguing thing is that despite this repetition the set still works really, really well. It?s all proves to be a fun thing to be a part of.

Even the moment that sees an overzealous punter attempt to grapple Phillips? phallic puppet away, a point that could possibly have marred the entire evening, quickly dissipates after a brief lock-up and business resumes as normal. Normal for The Dickies, that is anyway. 32 years on and it may be a little strained at times, it may be a little toothless but it?s fun. Plain and simple. (4)

Alex Hambleton