Saturday, 26 September 2015

Dog Fashion Disco @ The Craufurd Arms 10/09/2015 - Really Talented Americans

There are not many bands I could justify travelling half way across the country to see, especially on a work night and especially not to Milton Keynes. The town is how I imagine purgatory to resemble. Essentially, an expansive shopping and eating destination and not a whole lot else. A place where people go to consume. Regardless, this was the closest date of Dog Fashion Disco’s (Really) Ugly Americans Tour and not even the prospect of having to once again visit Milton Keynes was going to stop me.

Besides perhaps Huddersfield we had chosen the least prolific date of the tour. The Craufurd Arms is more suited for tribute nights and wedding receptions than accommodating one of the most unique bands of the last fifteen years. We knew this was going to be an intimate gig and given its seemingly unremarkable location I can only assume the band had no idea where they were either.

Joining Dog Fashion Disco on the tour were openers Psychostick. Whilst involuntarily getting to know the locals it became apparent that the majority of the audience were here for them. Perhaps years spent attempting to navigate MK’s near labyrinthine layout has left people unable to comprehend anything divergent.

Psychostick are a novelty act. Much in the same manner that Steel Panther pretend to be eighties rockstars and attempt to get underage girls to expose themselves or Five Finger Death Punch pretending to be actual accomplished musicians, Psychostick are a parody of the common associations of rock and metal. Whilst they managed some genuinely entertaining moments such as the ‘slowest mosh pit ever’ it is difficult to see past purely the novelty. Music combined with comedy is like my computer… it doesn’t work very well. Other songs just seem childish. It is music for the Youtube generation, whereby music videos go viral, not because of their accomplished songwriting, but for their ability to distract you from reality for a few minutes and then ultimately forgotten about.

Since being made aware of DFD’s existence nearly twelve years ago, they have not only consistently remained a fixture of my music collection but a catalyst for its general eclecticism. Anarchists of Good Taste is one of those rare albums that I consider timeless, had it not been for its almost accidental discovery all those years ago, I may well have spent the remainder of the decade relying on the ‘genre of the month’ artists force fed by the musical press. Never before had I listened to anything resembling their blend of jazz, psychedelica and the avante-garde. Todd Smith’s darkly captivating lyrics explored themes that admittedly as a na├»ve teenager I had trouble fully comprehending. For the first time I began actively exploring the words to the music, uncovering creative stories regarding serial killers, cults and occultism.

The unfinished chapter in this story regards my uncertainty of ever being able to witness the live DFD experience. The band has something of a cult status in their homeland America; I presumed chances were slim of them ever considering an international fanbase. Following their enormously successful crowdfunding campaign in 2014, the band announced successive shows in London, having to adjoin additional dates to appease demand. I was as shocked as I can only presume the band was.  

Exploding with Rapist Eyes the band instantly reassure anyone remaining from the Psychostick crowd that, this is not going to be another novelty act, despite the assumptions their name might entail. A few points worth mentioning tonight, is that the horn section lead by Matt Rippentoe, so integral to their sound is noticeably absent on this tour. However, I understand the logistics of bringing an additional member was more than likely not practical for such a small tour. Regular drummer John Ensminger is also absent, as is frequent stand-in Mike Oliver. Drum duties were therefore preformed by a mystery individual. Competent enough but Ensminger’s Jazz influenced accompaniment forms the background to DFD’s sound.

Following heavier numbers, The Sacrifice of Miss Rose Covington sounds as invigorating as it did back in 2006 and Pale Horse showcase the bands more metallic influences with guitarist Jasan Stepp taking his performance into the crowd in effort to encourage movement. Following new track, Ad Nauseam insinuates the band can demonstrate a more accessible side if they so desire, an electro tinged upbeat track that would have sounded even better with the addition of the accompanying saxophone the studio version is blessed with. 

One of the key components in DFD’s music is that, as amiable as the music represents itself, Todd Smith’s lyrics have nearly always been misleadingly morbid as the more melodic Nude in the Wilderness demonstrates. Tastes so Sweet with its almost cabaret style piano, could have been a huge crossover hit for the band, if this cultures seemingly preoccupation with bland musical conformity was not the main hindrance.

100 Suicides is another track that benefits hugely in a live environment to its horn accompaniment, yet the band still improvise enough to ensure a fully successful rendition. More recent material from last years criminally overlooked Sweet Nothings include satirically influenced We Aren’t the World and politically charged War Party, before the band revert back to fan favourites such as Pogo the Clown and The Acid Memoirs.

New track, Only the Haunted from their upcoming album Ad Nauseam reassures that the album is going to be a highlight of the year. The band finish on two tracks from Adultery, Sweet Insanity and Darkest Days. Between myself and the other ten or so long term fans present, there is a certain sense of disappointment that anything from Anarchists of Good Taste was surprisingly overlooked. Not only does that album serve as the quintessential release from the band, it perfectly showcases both their diversity and talent. To have been able to hear Valley Girl Ventriloquist or 9 to 5 at the Morgue would have made the evening not only memorable, but perfect. Second that, seeing them anywhere but Milton Keynes would have made it perfect.


So, whilst the set list could have benefitted from a few alterations, they band still proved they are the sole proprietors of the avante-garde metal scene (as niche as that maybe) For me it was something I had been waiting a long time for, my sentiment gleefully overlooking any minor dissuasions anyone else may have had. The band however, deserves better, better venues, better crowds and better recognition for their efforts.The thought of a supporting band like Psychostick receiving a warmer reaction than Dog Fashion Disco is as incomprehensible as Weird Al Yankovic stealing the show from Johnny Cash.


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