The Number Ones, Stay Clean Jolene & Dillinger Four
The Dome, Tufnell Park – 28.04
I can distinctly remember reading (and re-reading) an old Fat Wreck zine I got with a postal order in the early 2000s. It had a list of Fat Wreck musicians’ favourite albums of the year. Lagwagon frontman Joey Cape’s was Dillinger Four‘s 2002 record Situationist Comedy. It was the first time I’d ever heard of D4 and I remember thinking, “Damn, if it’s Joey Cape’s favourite it must be the shit.” A thought vindicated 33 seconds into track one “Noble Stabbings!!”
I think it’s fair to say that the Minneapolis quartet aren’t the most active, or productive, band in the world; they’ve released four studio albums in 22 years and the last time they toured the U.K. was 2009 – a year before I moved to London. So tonight was special. Seeing Dillinger Four was a big deal. Their 2008 album Civil War‘s one of those gems you know every word of.
When we get to The Dome opening band The Number Ones is on. A Dublin-based supergroup, from the sounds of things. We catch the last few songs. The band’s all big hair and complicated shirts. The music’s retro, garagey powerpop, saccharine and catchy. But some of the singing’s out of tune, which makes it hard to get into.
Up next is Manchester band Stay Clean Jolene. Another surprising support act for a band as cult and iconic as Dillinger Four. There’s a workman-like quality to Stay Clean Jolene’s sound and they remind me a bit of seminal Sunderland punk band Leatherface. But without the same kind of dark, brooding, storyteller’s poetry.
Instead, the music’s lighter, up-tempo and more skate punk. Guitarist and backup vocalist William Farley’s screams and riffs sound modern alongside frontman John Dagger’s gravelly vocals and more old-school punk rock demeanor. But overall, they come across a bit like a band that got back together after some time off.
In my mind, Dillinger Four are larger-than-life punk rock superheroes. Instead, four pretty old-looking dudes who clearly enjoy a pint walk out sipping cans of Kronenbourg. But as soon as Erik Funk kicks into the opening riff for “A Jingle for the Product,” it’s on like fucking Donkey Kong.
Dillinger Four have just got such a kick-ass combination of wit, social commentary and fart jokes. The songs are insightful and all heart. And Erik Funk has one of the coolest voices in punk rock; a catchy lament that’s part whisper, part gremlin and all melody. Of course, he’s more than backed up by his more bear-like bass-playing cohort Patrick Costello and D4’s own Matt Freeman, second guitarist Bill Morrisette.
“Saturday night in London town,” says Costello over and over – it’s Thursday. Songs like “Noble Stabbings,” “Minimum Wage is a Gateway Drug” and “Gainesville” sound awesome and D4 look like superheroes playing them. Before “Minimum Wage is a Gateway Drug,” Costello says, “This next song, she’s about theft” over and over, turning his back on different sections of the crowd and urging them to slap his arse after each delivery. A slightly more non-committal, “Can I get an amen brothers and sisters.”
Towards the end of the set, Dillinger Four do seem to get a bit rustier and Morrisette’s vocals sound badly out of tune singing “Walk away” on final song “D4=Putting the ‘F’ Back in ‘Art’.” It can’t end like this. Surely…
And it doesn’t. The band comes back out to play “Holy Shit,” off their “first seven inch.” Unfortunately, they don’t look like they’ve played it together for years and I start to wish they’d ended on a high, like “Maximum Piss and Vinegar” or “Gainesville.” Still, it can’t ruin the night. Especially when I get my copy of Civil War signed by the entire band. Score.