Reflections on one of Canada’s longest running punk bands and a few reasons why I never cared that much.
I’ve never been a big fan of the Dayglo Abortions. For that matter, I’ve never been a small fan of theirs either, besides maybe a short stint during grade school, back before I knew better. Or maybe I should say, back before I refined my taste in music. Even though they are an important thread in the fabric of Canadian punk rock history, I’ve always had a hard time getting past their ridiculous song titles and the utterly stupid shit they sing about. And we’re talking about punk rock here, so that’s really saying something.
Maybe I’m missing the sarcasm and the metaphors. Actually, I know I am. Willingly. I just don’t have the patience to look for meaning in satirical songs about drugs, sexworkers, erections, dog farts, televangelists, or one of a few dozen songs about alcohol. That said, I’ll always love the line, “I’m proud to be a Canadian, pass me another beer.” It’s kind of perfect, don’t you think? And if you’re wondering why a song with such an iconic and culturally resonant opening line was never chosen for an advertising campaign, there’s a reason for that. The rest of the lyrics to Proud to be a Canadian, from the band’s 1986 sophomore album Feed Us A Fetus, reference Pierre Elliott Trudeau snorting coke, his wife Margaret literally getting shit on by Mick Jagger, and the song’s narrator sodomizing an Inuit woman after cashing his welfare cheque. And of course, they say Eskimo instead of Inuit, which I suppose was still a common term in 1986. But still…
All shit talk (pun intended) aside, I can’t help but appreciate the Dayglos on some minor level. And I won’t deny owning copies of both Fetus and Here Today, Guano Tomorrow for brief spells between grades 9 and 12. But it was more for shock value than anything else. I felt ten feet tall walking the hallways of Oromocto High School with a vinyl copy of Here Today tucked under my arm – one side showing a gun pointed at a hamster and a box of chocolates – the other side a mess of bloody rodent guts. It was defiant, rebellious, and completely ridiculous all at once, just like I was at the time. Sometimes I miss the ignorance of my adolescence.
I suppose we all form bonds with the bands we love at different stages in our lives, and for an endless list of reasons. Around the same time I was carrying around my copy of Here Today trying my best to look cool, I was also discovering the bands that would shape my interpretation of this music. Bands that would actually change the way I saw the world. After I heard bands like Nomeansno, SNFU, and D.O.A., the Dayglos fell off my radar. Even though all four of these bands were singing about the same issues – either buried under a stinking pile of sarcasm or as outright manifestos for changing the world – my ears and interest sought a less metaphor rich approach. For me, their shock value was trumped by lyrical substance, meaning, and musicality. But that’s not to say the Dayglos can’t claim their fair share of solid, catchy guitar riffs. After their debut album, they got a lot heavier. By the time Fetus came out, the thrash and metal influences were clearly apparent. If I had to pick something about the Dayglos to compliment, their riffs were the one thing I could usually get behind. Back when I was first consuming this thing called punk rock and its close cousin hardcore at a rapid rate, I was also a metal head living my mandatory Metallica obsession, simultaneously getting off on the aggression of downstroked, palm-muted chugga-chugga riffs, and the deliberate hypermasculinity of it all. Musically, the Dayglos fit a similar mold, but their overall approach wasn’t enough to pull me in. Kind of like those Jackass movies. They don’t offend me. And they are probably funny. But I just don’t care.
All this begs the question: how does the band’s music standup today? In some ways, forty years of ongoing cultural sensitivity has only made the Dayglo’s catalogue that much more offensive by today’s standards, which I guess could be seen as a win for the band and their fans. But I have to wonder, do songs about dog shit and “Religious Bumfucks” still have a purpose in this day and age? To somebody, they probably still do.
Like their punk rock brethren, D.O. A., who adopted the tagline “The Godfathers of Hardcore” as a way of identifying their history and connecting with new audiences, the Dayglos have taken a similar approach using, “a Canadian punk band that uses satire and sarcasm as a weapon.” Which I guess is their way of explaining 40+ years of deliberately offensive songs and DIY shock rock. And maybe, just maybe, such a tagline could also help justify why the band’s only remaining original member, Murray “Cretin” Acton, is still writing songs with titles like Urinal Disk Sandwich, Double D Diddlers, and Jerry’s Retards.
But I’ve got to give credit where credit is due. The Dayglos have been at it for almost 45 years. They have endured numerous lineup changes (functioning for the last several years with only one original member) and continue to make music. And they continue to tour. Last year they headlined the Maritime Punk Fest (now called Punkocalypse) in Fredericton helping rejuvenate local interest in the genre, and they will be back out east again this spring. And you know what? I’ll probably go see them despite everything I just told you. At this point they’ve sort of become the Trooper of Canadian punk rock. And who doesn’t like Trooper? Raise a little hell. Pass me another beer. Let’s go see the Dayglo Abortions.
May 24 | Xeroz Arcade/Bar | Moncton, NB
May 25 | Broken Record Bar and Music Room | Fredericton, NB
May 26 | Panic Room | Saint John, NB
May 27 | Gus’s Pub | Halifax, NS
May 28 | Baba’s Lounge | Charlottetown, PEI
All dates with Motorama and Mvll Crimes.