Shhhhh. Nobody tell Zmaj because I don’t want him to take this as me capitulating in our argument over whether grindcore is more punk than metal. As you may have heard before, I came to this whole grind thing by way of punk because, let’s face it, grind is the punk of metal. I started buying fewer and fewer punk records as grind became my idée fixe and many of those albums I did have got sold off during the peripatetic phases of my young adult life. However, punk still holds fond memories for me as my first real musical love (one day I’ll tell the story of how I went from Foreigner and Dire Straits to grindcore), fondly remembered like a first kiss. So periodically, I’m going to pull out beloved punk gems to share and reminisce over.
The Dicks brought the pride of Pansy Division with the confrontational bitch slap of Black Flag, but wrapped through a narrative aesthetic that was more Hedwig than John Waters, courtesy of larger than life frontman Gary Floyd and his blues seared baritone that sounds like gnawed beer cans and gargled cigarette butts belting out street level observations about the most marginalized aspects of society against slashing punk rock battery. Floyd possessed a voice so soulful he could render a hoary punk cliché like “we don’t want no fucking war” refreshing and affecting for its world weary honesty and the genuine sense of despair driving it. He also proved himself to be one of the great punk rock raconteurs when he gay heckled a beer-flinging audience member mid-song during a live version of glory hole anthem “Saturday Night at the Bookstore” without breaking his stride.
While “Dicks Hate the Police” is probably their most famous song – deservedly so and largely due to being covered by Mudhoney, my favorite remains “Shit on Me,” a curb-side queen tale of gay hustlers so awesome Mike Watt of the Minutemen used it as his answering machine tape in the 1980s. Instead of a woe is me jeremiad on the misery of a life spent hooking, the song is a defiant brush back, sex wielded as a weapon in an era when Saint Ronnie of Reagan couldn’t even bring himself to utter “AIDS” for fear of offending the religious whackaloons who propelled him into office.
The Dicks – “Shit on Me”
When you talk about the Dicks you also have to acknowledge the divide between the Austin and San Francisco lineups, with the former being more visceral and street scummed while the latter grew more refined and self-consciously arty, building on Floyd’s inherent abilities as a story teller and gutter-level journalist and no song captured that searing insight better than the thoroughly despondent “Sidewalk Begging,” a song that should kick the homeless romanticism out of a legion of spoiled suburban crusty runaways.
The Dicks – “Sidewalk Begging”