Not counting Olympian gods like Superchunk,
The Dillinger Four are my new favorite band. I so loved Situationist
Comedy that I bought the back catalogue in total. I
have yet to be disappointed by any of it.
Describing this band is probably going to be an exercise in
cliché avoidance. They are, without qualification or question,
a punk rock band. Real punk rock, not that knock-off discount
brand shit you see at Target. Punk rock that both cares deeply
about the state of the world but admits up front that we’d just
as soon slit your throat as deal with your shit; that sort of
Most people who speak of these things shoehorn D4 into the
‘pop punk’ sub-folder then spend the next five paragraphs explaining
why “regardless, they’re much better than Blink 182.” This is
a disservice to Dillinger Four, in my humble opinion, and a
critical fallacy on the part of those reviewers. Dillinger Four
are not a pop punk band that just so happens not to be smarmy,
self-obsessive prima donnas. On the contrary, D4 are a hardcore
punk rock band that happens to be able to carry a tune.
There’s a subtle difference at work here. Dillinger Four’s
genealogy is properly traced through Black Flag and Minor Threat.
These guys are much more the children of Ian
MacKaye than Billie Joe Armstrong.
(NOTE: I like Billie Joe’s band, but his children tend to suck.)
Yes, they toured with Billie Joe’s band, but that’s because
they, like Billie Joe’s band, are descendents of a much straighter
branch of the Punk Tree than, oh, Sum 41.
Situationist Comedy is a wonderful record. Everyone
should own it. Steal it if you have to. They’re punks, they
won’t mind. It has the anger mixed with the outrage mixed with
the intelligence that is the true pre-requisite of all great
punk records. And it RAWKS!
I’m not going to go through a track by track listing, firstly
because all of the song names are meaningless as far as I can
tell, and secondly because most of them sound vaguely alike.
They’re punk rock songs, for the love of Christ. They’re not
about ornate or subtle variations that build upon operatic themes.
They’re about punk rock. If you don’t get that tautology, you’re
probably not going to get the songs, and thus the band either.
What I am going to do, in closing, is tell you a little story
about myself. (Because I’m a Music Critic, and that’s all we
ever really do anyway.)
I work in an office park in Alpharetta. I manage a database
for a software company. I live, for the eight-hour business
day, on The Cubicle Farm of Corporate America, in a branch office
in The Protestant Suburbs. I spend the vast majority of my life
with the least punk-rock people you are ever likely to meet.
Strangely enough, I tend to like most of them on an individual
level. Its only when I think about them on a meta-level that
I feel the bile in the back of the throat.
Most of my days are pleasant enough. As a back office techie,
I don’t have to deal much with the real corporate schnozs up
front. But when I do, when I have one of those days where the
sales weasels are simply unbearable, or when the marketing smiles
are too gleaming to stomach, I put on the headset and listen
to Dillinger Four. The moment I get out of that is sublime.
Every time, it reminds me of a scene from Peter Jackson’s LOTR:
The Two Towers.
Frodo and Sam Gamgee have recently captured the creature Gollum
and Frodo is attempting to tame him. After some serious internal
conflict, the human soul that still resides within Gollum, a
hobbit like creature known as Smeagol, retakes control of him
self and banishes “Gollum” for a time. The scene in question
occurs the morning after this transformation. With the weight
of Gollum removed from his soul, Smeagol dances around a creek
bed, diving in and out of the water, fishing with his bare hands
for a nice morning meal. He is existentially free; overjoyed;
nigh ecstatic now that the ring of Gollum’s evil is removed
from his neck. He dives into the stream, catches a fish, smashes
it open on the rock and tears out the fleshy middle with his
teeth. In the glow of a returned innocence that for 500 years
he hasn’t dared dream of, he doesn’t notice the two hobbits’
approach until they are near enough to speak. When he notices
them he graciously offers them some breakfast.
It is the most beautiful moment in the film, a perfect visual
capture of a tortured soul’s brief return to innocence. When
I put on my headset, full of fury and disdain for the world
around me, and I queue up D4’s bombastic catharsis, I feel like
Gollum-cum-Smeagol in that scene. I dance, in my head, a spastic,
hand flailing, stream diving, fish-snaring dance of freedom.
I imagine the guy two cubes down as a nice, stupid, unsuspecting
salmon, and I picture my working space as a crag of flesh-ripping
granite. And I smile at the thought of breakfast, as innocent
as the day I was born.
This is punk rock. This is what punk rock is supposed to do
for you. If you get it, buy this album.