DILLINGER FOUR: Civil War: CD

This is interesting; here we have a writhing Wesson Oil Party of Razorcake writers all focused on one album—an unprecedented orgy of sweaty opinions and impassioned squeals of delight or grunts of derision—and I find myself feeling some trepidation about whether to join in or not. Because of the fact that I hail from D4’s hometown and frequent the bar where St. Patrick works, I feel reluctance about all this, similar to what one would feel by the prospect of doing body shots off GG Allin, back when he was still alive and covered with blood and boogers and bile. But the truth is that, unlike the other reviewers gathered here to say smart and insightful things about D4’s newest offering, I stand a chance of inadvertently building—and then stepping into—my own booby trap. Simply by virtue of the measly little opinions I decide to decorate this review with. You see, underneath that lumberjack beard and churlish demeanor, Paddy’s a pretty sensitive guy, prone to feeling spurned. And as everyone knows, the power we Razorcake reviewers wield packs more of a wallop than a falling cement truck full of dung and American Idol judges. So all it would take is for me to type out one or two indelicate criticisms wrapped in bon mots and god only knows what foul surprises might wind up hidden in my food and drink next time I’m at Grumpy’s Bar when Paddy’s on duty. I shudder to think of what sort of crimes against nature could be committed with an order of “tater oles” (tater tots stuffed with Mexican cheese) and his famously naked backside—and then served up to a poor, dim-witted reviewer, too drunk to notice odd flavors and unusual textures. Nevertheless, I will soldier on. I took this job knowing full well that someday the butterfly effect of my words would eventually boomerang back to me in the form of a spurned, vengeful musician. So maybe it would be in my best interest if I kept this fairly short and sweet; get in, make a point or two, and get out, quick as a wink. Maybe that way I’ll go unnoticed in this churning sea of D4 reviewers and I’ll be able to eat my next order of tater oles without worry of retaliation through befouled bar food.

So here it goes: Dillinger Four has always had, for me, a Janus-like two-faced quality, personified by the characters of Patrick Costello, on one hand, and Eric Funk on the other. It’s an admittedly oversimplified take on a band as complex as D4, and it’s not meant as a slight to the other two band members, but it does point out the apparent split personality of the band. And it’s always been that split personality or balance of opposites that, in my mind, made them a band unlike just about anyone else. From their early days of smelling OK Soda through to Situationist Comedy, there’s been a healthy balance of light and dark, sweet and sour, smooth and abrasive, gentleman and cad, Twinkies and meatballs. Or, to put it another way, D4 is a musical example of vagina dentata; which is to say that the band has always had a way of luring you in with well-crafted pop punk melodies and then taking you off at the knees with brutal blasts of hardcore savagery. But if this balance can be even crudely represented by vagina dentata, then Civil War is an album slightly out of balance, an album that doesn’t have quite the same bite as their older stuff. Could it be that they’re suffering from a bad case of torpor brought on by eating too many orders of tater oles with Fat Mike? I don’t know, but, whatever the case, it seems like the gentlemanly side of the band’s personality has fought off the caddish side on this recording. And I was always partial to that rawer, more unruly side. But this is still unmistakably Dillinger Four, even if it is a more refined version. So I’m not sure there’s anything to what I’m saying or not. That vagina dentata crap might be a stretch. Hell, right out of the chute I already really like “paris Hilton is a metaphor,” “Minimum Wage is a Gateway Drug” and “AMERICAS PREMIERE FAITH BASED INITIATIVE.” They rock damn good.

And, really, how can anybody flat out not like D4? They’re smart, fun, funny, and well-thought-of—pretty much everything you could ever want in a date. Plus, they look good naked, as anyone who’s seen them play live knows. But here’s a fact worth considering: though one of the cardinal rules of reviewing anything is to never admit your own fallibility, the truth is I’ve owned this CD for about two weeks now and have not listened to it anywhere near as much as I prefer to when I’ve got my serious reviewing pants on. It could well be that a couple weeks from now—after I’ve listened to it more and under louder and drunker circumstances—I won’t have any idea what I’m prattling on about here in this review.

Believe it or not, that sort of thing has happened before. If I know anything about this band, it’s that their stuff seems to grow on me over time. So I hope I’m not setting myself up to look like a laughingstock; I’m not saying D4 is now indistinguishable from the Jonas Brothers or anything like that. I honestly don’t think these guys are capable of putting out something that’s not at least very good. But maybe that’s it—they’ve just kept the bar so high for so many years that anything that doesn’t immediately bowl me over seems like a slight let down. Until it doesn’t anymore. But now I’m running the risk of coming off as an equivocating laughingstock. And since Paris Hilton isn’t the only metaphor strutting around out there, I’d better just stick with the mule of a metaphor that got me to this point in the review, which is the vagina dentata metaphor. So I’ll leave it at this: as good as Civil War is—and as great as it may become—I’d still like to see D4 sharpen those teeth back up to an evilly sharp point again.  –aphid (Fat)