For musicians, anger was not in short supply in 1980. It was requisite for punk, the flamethrower for hardcore, and it came in all shapes and sizes. In Austin, the arc between punk anger and nascent hardcore were the Dicks, the queerest of the queer. The Big Boys may have been bigger, but the Dicks were harder. The Big Boys screamed, but the Dicks seethed. The Big Boys were politically aware, but the Dicks were political. And now the CD cornerstone of Texas punk can be laid with the release of Dicks 1980-1986. Twenty-one tracks were culled for this take-no-prisoners collection, which covers both the Austin- and San Francisco-based versions of the band, allowing even the most casual listener an unusually cohesive journey of the band from its first EP Dicks Hate the Police to their swansong track on the Texas punk compilation Cottage Cheese From the Lips of Death, "Guilbeau," a moody, Morrisonesque harbinger of lead singer Gary Floyd's next band, Sister Double Happiness. In between, is an unholy union of raving anti-homophobia, anti-war, and anti-hate anthems laid out on the skeleton of classic garage-punk, and raising itself like Mr. Bones from the vinyl graveyard to do a tap-dance back into our skulls, if only to remind us just what punk at its best could be. The original Dicks -- Gary Floyd, Buxf Parrot, Pat Deason, and the late Glen Taylor -- open the album irresistibly off-beat and blindly off-key on the meandering fury of "Dicks Hate the Police," "Lifetime Problems" and the trite sentiment of "Fake Bands," then systemically reconstruct the politics of punk in "Saturday Night at the Bookstore": "You... and your fat fucking wife coming out of Safeway on a Sunday afternoon and see me standing there and don't even speak to me... 'cause I sucked your cock through a gloryhole...." The Dicks stomp this turf just as the Velvet Underground did with "Sister Ray," continuing with the utterly brilliant "Wheelchair Epidemic," and thrashers "Shit on Me," "Rich Daddy," and "Kill from the Heart." The band morphs on track 13, with Floyd back in San Francisco, recruiting Tim Carroll, Lynn Perko, and Sebastian Fuchs, and marking distinctly more melodic social awareness though no less compromising. By the time the Dicks zipped it closed forever in 1986, they did so with such savage grace no one who'd heard them walked away innocent.
4.0 Stars -- Margaret Moser