The Incredible Shrinking Dickies was the first album by Californian band The Dickies. Released originally in 1979 on the major record label A&M the album features 13 breakneck punk songs three of which were also released as singles.
It was hard to take the band seriously as everything about them was comical.
The album cover featured a picture of the band shrunk in a 'Honey I shrunk the kids' style. The picture shows the group surrounded by giant props such as brandy glasses, telephones and giant toothbrushes. The band has been shrunk but are they incredible is the question.
As mentioned earlier all of the songs are played at a breakneck speed and most of the tracks last less than two minutes!
There is little variation in the sound of these songs they are all basically chainsaw sounding guitars with a sweet and almost helium filled lead vocal. If you think of a typical song by The Ramones add some keyboards and then speed everything up and you'll be pretty close to the overall sound of this album.
Give It Back -
The opening track starts the album with a fast fuzz of guitars and crashing drum beats. The song is about a tale of school bullying and revenge; a topic that sadly rang true with a lot of the bands teenage fans in the late seventies. The song was released in the UK as a single.
Poodle Party -
The second song is musically the same as the opener. The song sings about a girlfriend and compares her to a dog! Sleazy, easy and ruff!
Why the band attempted to do a cover of the Black Sabbath classic is a mystery. With young punks trying their hardest to step away from the Metal and Progressive rock hangover of the seventies it was a brave choice of song. The vocals aren't as good as Ozzy and there are no metal guitar solo's here but the song thrashes faster and has a greater sense of urgency than the original. It's not a better version just different!
The vocal harmonies make this track standout from the others. The music is still fast and fiery but a little more melodic. The song is a love song about the lies and betrayal, sad stuff!
Shadow Man -
I'm unsure of the political correctness of this song, though I suspect evil Shadow Man character that is portrayed throughout is a cartoon villain. It's quite a straight forward dickies-by-numbers type of song and is enjoyable throwaway punk pop song.
Mental Ward -
The title of this song is apt as lyrics are about a Psychopath trying to break out of a mental ward! The music complements this well and the lyrics are half shouted and half sung; maybe an attempt to portray schizophrenia? The cuckoo clocks and haywire spring samples also add to the musical madness.
Eve of Destruction -
A version of the P F Sloan classic which has been given the Dickies treatment and sped up to Concorde speed proportions! You can pick the tune up though this version is almost half the length of the original version! The track was instantly loved by the punk fraternity and releases of the single became difficult to find in the local record shops due to demand.
You Drive Me Ape (You Big Gorilla) -
The guitars in this song sound like machines and have a strange metallic sound to them. This song really whizzes along and the guitar riff provides a strong tune throughout; an enjoyable fun punk song.
The American fascination with Theme Parks and Water Parks had inspired this song, which lyrically and musically captures the essence of Sun, Youth and Fun. It also has a great sing-along chorus which is always raises a smile.
Walk like An Egg -
The song starts with a slow sixties psychedelic guitar and lyrics about being a lonely person. Then seconds later there are thundering tribal drums, a screech of a guitar and we are back on common punk pop ground. Speed is the key!
Curb Job -
The lyrics of this song are violent and menacing. The threat of getting a broken face is sung throughout; however the proceedings are made a little lighter by the inclusion of a nice keyboard break and squeaky toy solo!
Shake & Bake -
The saxophone work in this song gives it a great punk flavour, not dissimilar to the sound of punk icons X-Ray Spex. The chorus is a musical round (where a lyric is sung repeatedly over another in a pattern) which adds a new depth to the song.
Rondo (The Midgets Revenge) -
The album closer is an instrumental song that is dominated by a bouncy keyboard riff. Quite a catchy little tune that'll have you whistling along to it! What a nice track to end the album with.
I had a fondness for the Dickies in the late seventies. This was due to several factors; youth, naivety and the tactile enjoyment of records pressed on colour vinyl (my copy of this was blue). The thing with the Dickies was that they were a safe musical bet.
Like the Ramones, if you like one song by the band then the chances are you would like them all! This is certainly true with this album that is somewhat 1 dimensional.
Despite this lack of musical variety it is a fun and enjoyable album. The other endearing qualities of the Dickies are there blisteringly fast cover versions of other bands songs. The bands cover of The Banana Splits theme tune remains their most prolific song.
Nearly thirties years since its original release the album still has a freshness and sense of fun that originally made it so popular and deserves a listen for that reason alone.
Price and availability
The CD of this release (with additional bonus tracks from singles of the period) was available for £8.97 from www.amazon.co.uk at the date of writing (11th September 2008)
Copyright M Jones (Otalgia) 2008
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Give it back
2 Poodle party
5 Shadow man
6 Mental ward
7 Eye of distruction
8 You drive me ape (you big gorilla)
10 Walk like an egg
11 Curb job
12 Shake and Bake
13 Rondo (The midgets revenge)
14 I'm ok, you're ok
15 Silent night
16 Sounds of Silence
17 Banana splits
19 Got it at the store