Let's punk it up, kids. I bought the reissue of the Dicks' classic debut, Kill From The Heart, on the Alternative Tentacles label, in the vinyl format earlier in the year, and yet for no particular reason, it's escaped a spiel on this blog until now. Originally released on SST in 1983, prior to its reissue it had been out of print for eons until last year. Fact is, this is the first time I've ever owned the thing in any format, since it's been an elusive record to grab hold of. Its early deletion from the SST catalogue remains inexplicable to me. Gary Floyd was obviously still on good enough terms w/ Ginn & co. in the late '80s to remain on the label w/ Sister Double Happiness. I interviewed Gary about 5 years ago for an article on another site which never eventuated, and I don't believe I even covered that topic as well as I should have (ie. - 'why [the fuck] was the Dicks' debut deleted so early on from the SST catalogue?'), so I guess I'm no Woodward & Bernstein (and I can't locate the interview in question, or I'd print it here). So!
When I was in the US in '99, I spotted bootlegged copies of KFTH in hep record outlets in every city I visited. Someone booted it w/ a paste-on sleeve at the time, and it was omnipresent. I kept on passing on it, figuring I'd locate a copy back home somehow, and also because I didn't want to be lugging a box of LPs around the country. Which brings me to to this edition. Remastered by Biafra, the LP edition also comprises a swish bonus 'Hate The Police' 7": a nice thing to have, since that infamous track isn't reprised on the LP itself. The original Dicks, featuring Floyd on vocals, Glen Taylor on guitar, mohican maniac Buxf Parrot on bass and Pat Deason on skins were a very different beast than the band evolved into a mere year or two later. After KFTH was recorded, the original band imploded, and Floyd headed for San Fran and reformed the group w/ a bunch of rad SF hippie punx. They then recorded and released These People on the AT imprint ca. 1985. That was the Dicks I grew up on.
My old high school pal, Warwick, one of the very few people in my school tuned into the punker vibes, lent it to me when I was 15 and it scorched enough brain cells for me to tape the thing for a semi-regular perusal. The original Dicks were an unstoppable force of gross-out shock-rock, lewd lyricism and way-over-the-top radical politics. They were, especially given the lasting testament of their recordings (which also includes the ace Live At Raul's split LP w/ the Big Boys), one of the best bands of their day. Gary Floyd still has one of the finest set of pipes of anyone hailing from that era - he's got the soul of a bluesman trapped in those lungs - and the fact that he'd walk the streets of Texas (OK, it's Austin, but it's still Texas!) in 1980 w/ a large-size gay man donning a baby mohawke and hammer-&-sickle t-shirt goes to show he's tougher than you or me.
Here's a controversial opinion: I actually prefer the later Dicks to the original, far more chaotic version of the band. KFTH is a great record: mostly mid-tempo, rough and relatively lo-fi punk-blues (or blues-punk) just teeming in hate and loathing for everything in the Amerikan landscape, and it's got killer cuts like 'Rich Daddy', 'Little Boys' Feet' and the title track, but... I can't go past even stronger tracks on These People such as 'George Jackson', 'I Hope You Get Drafted', 'Dead In A Motel Room' and 'The Police Force'. The production on the second album, c/o Klaus Flouride, is much punchier and clearer than Spot's on the first, and, heretic as it may sound, but I much prefer of Tim Carroll to that of Glen Taylor. He's got the same, slightly psychedelic/surf sound as East Bay Ray, and Sebastian F's bass duties on the latter are also nothing to sneeze at: intricate and techically proficient melodies which work in perfect counterpart to Carroll's twang. Taking the comparisons one step further: the basswork brings to mind that of producer Flouride, and the album's post-'core rad vibe - more serious and lacking the caustic obscenities of the debut - reminds me a lot of the Dead Kennedys' Frankenchrist LP. That reference may frighten some, but I guess that's their problem, not mine.
The fact remains: the Dicks didn't release a dud disc. 'Hate The Police' was the perfect punk rock 7" for 1980; Kill From The Heart is classic '82 HC released a year too late; and These People, along w/ Rites Of Spring's debut from the same year, represent two of the best 'hardcore' releases of the mid '80s, at which point the entire 'movement', at least musically speaking, was past its peak. You, of course, need to acquire them all.