O.K. F.M. D.O.A.
(a.k.a. the basements of Minneapolis burn tonight.)
Dillinger Four know how to kick off their albums in just the right way. On Situationist Comedy a crazy Japanese teen belts out a declaration of punk in his native language; on Versus God they get right to the point with a quick "I want you to pay attention" and a bomb exploding before ripping into some da-da-da-da-chicka-chicka. Essentially with their introduction samples they are setting up what is to come for the rest of the album, too, and not just sounding cool in the process. While Situationist Comedy is equally as mediocre and novelty as it’s beginning, Versus God has the emphasis on matured lyrics that reject the drunken philosophy of their earlier work, and move on to more sobered up realism, which does call for some paying attention. But neither of those examples can compete with Midwestern Songs of the Americans, the bands 1998 debut album on Hopeless Records. It is here on Midwestern Songs of the Americas that everything falls into place with the most vivid, and symbolic, introduction imaginable.
Fittingly, O.K. F.M. D.O.A., the opening track on Midwestern Songs Of The Americas, begins will a little post-modern, self-referential commentary. The tattered sounds of an old record player fade in, with a lo-fi symphonic magnitude that bursts open with what sounds like a skipping string loop. It gives the impression that this score could be in a film, where the director decided to get fancy Hollywood on us and attaching a camera to a helicopter and fly over tall skyscrapers. But with a crash and a boom the copter is going down in flames, and the cityscape has been changed to a grimy street corner on in the suffocated Midwest of America. It is here that we find our narrator...
Welcome, to your stereo spectrum, stereophonic, holiday tour of the city. Why not set your speakers for perfect balance? We'll offer a test tone played at the same frequency on both channels. This tone will be heard for ten seconds. This is not a scientific thousand-cycle tone: it is offered only to assist you in achieving a total and balanced sound.
The city that our man talks about probably isn’t Los Angeles, or New York City, or even Miami; in fact, I would doubt that it’s any place worth touring at all, with a population less than half a million, placing us somewhere in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, or Minneapolis, Minnesota. Quite frankly that’s what this album is all about. The unpolished sound, and the bleakness with occasional rough harmony, and plenty of drunken intellectual lyrics dress up a very appropriate vision of the Midwest of America.
After our portable phonograph man sets them up, Eric Funk knocks them down. His soprano voice comes in with a distorted guitar that can’t quite seems to get into some weird time signature, but actually it's just an illusion created by fast palm muting that is too fast for the vocals to keep up with. Mr. Funk confirms the idea of the bleak, and "jaded", town, inviting us to come on in, hang out, and get drunk. With the typical punk rock call to arms (GO!) Dillinger Four burst into a heavy riff, miming with pseudo-precision the orchestral beginning. Around this time the heads are already bobbing, and about to let loose.
All at once things come together, the verse is established and Eric once again takes the lead of the vocals with his high-pitched, scratchy voice. The stuttering drums match the climbing bassline, giving the sound a jerking motion, which only adds to a deeper groove. Once Eric is done belting out his part, St. Patrick takes over the vocals for what is to become the pre-chorus. Now the beat is established with straight forward 4/4 time, with call and response lyrics; Eric (the call) preaching "Come on!" and Paddy returning with his lines pertaining to killing the light. It is Billy who gets the last word on the subject, and then things enter the blissful dirtiness of the chorus.
What makes this chorus particularly catchy (and allow me to remind you that Dillinger Four does play their own brand of pop punk, and are unashamed of utilize it’s most simple conventions) is not the underly dressed up vocal hook, or the reprise of the stuttering drums from the verse, but rather the octaves being played in the left channel of the stereo. It could have simply been an after thought, "What could make this song better?", or it could have been the idea from the beginning, but either way, it works beyond belief. The sing along vocals, however, do add to the overall impact of this portion of the song, as if everyone in the bar decided to forget their worries and belt out what they could. While Eric Funk does take the reins for most of the chorus, Billy and Paddy are in the distant background, giving a distinctly D4 harmony to the song.
After a seamless transition back into the verse everything repeats again until the second chorus is good and done, and then it is time for some more D4 convention of their own, working off of a formula that seems to work every time for them. After a brief two chord hit the bridge comes in, which is a more harmonic bridge than usual, made effective by more straightforward drumming without Monkey Hustle’s crash cymbal melodies. Made especially excellent are the lyrics that Eric puts forth this time, allowing for the overall message of the album to truly sink it, but I’ll go into that in a few, with Billy coming in again at random moments to emphasis certain key points. After the final words are uttered a funky little beat is thrown in as a transitional piece to another reprisal of the chorus, and then an abrupt fin.
It is clear that the city we are visiting on this album is both a concrete town somewhere in the Midwest, and an abstract idea. That idea is punk rock, and the musical world at large. Dillinger Four are implementing their progressive ideas about music, using the lyrics to paint a picture of moving forward, and not sitting back on old ideas. Being a group of men truly in it for the music, they denounce those who whine about the state of punk from the past, and at the same time criticizing those who have sold their music out for money and fame. If punk rock were ever truly dead it was reborn in the Midwest when Dillinger Four released what should have become the scenes new bible, but sadly failed to catch on.
O.K. F.M. D.O.A. is by far the best opening track D4 has ever produced, putting "Who DIDN’T Kill Bambi" and !!Nobel Stabbings!! to shame, as I proclaimed up above. When I first saw Dillinger Four live they used this song to open their set, and with good reason: the song is so high energy that it is the perfect way to set things off, be it on record or in person. Those wishing to find an excellent introduction to the punk rock bliss of Dillinger Four would be hard pressed to find a better example of their perfected craft. All though some songs may better portray their inventiveness (I’m thinking doublewhiskeycokenoice. here), O.K. F.M. D.O.A. will give you a solid understanding of what Dillinger Four are all about, both in their musical aesthetic and in their ideology.
Witness a jaded town,
Got some champagne for a forty ounce frown,
I’ve worked my theories through,
Already half dead and nothing more to lose.
Forget now what we’ve got,
And all your old stories celebrating wounds,
I’ve heard enough of "Those days are gone",
Because there’s never time to play the fool.
Come on, kill the lights with trouble make,
Come on, smash the light and celebrate,
Let’s tie a yellow ribbon around the necks,
Of the motherfuckers living for the giving in,
Move with the rouge set choking out the radio,
A thousand voices booming out in stereo,
From top to bottom knock them down like dominoes.
Why wake in the past,
With well-framed pages from the book of rules,
I’ve heard enough of "Where were you then",
Because I don’t give a shit about collecting dues.
I saw it coming, now it happens all the time,
First you had a D.I.Y. chip on your shoulder,
Then you got an ego fifty fanzines wide,
Don’t give me those eyes,
You’re trying to sell out, I won’t buy.
Maybe the costume fits, but the scripts still shit.
Lyrics contained legally through 33% rule.