Should Punk Rock ever lead to growing up? Such is the quandary that the aging delinquents of Dillinger Four have been silently pondering. After letting some fightin’ words free with 2002’s Situationist Comedy, the group spent six years promising a fourth album until Civil War finally made it out in October. If you’ve got loyal listeners desperate for more material and you make prickly Pop Punk, the time-frame edges in on Chinese Democracy territory.
Looking at just the track titles of their latest venture checks off a good chunk of D4 prerequisites — a crummy pun (“The Art of Whore”), a seemingly irreverent pop cultural nod (“Fruity Pebbles”), a ridiculously conjoined phrase (“Americaspremierefaithbasedinitiative”) — but a dig into War finds something a little more serious than expected. Sure, the Minneapolis-bred gang of four still slings dozens of hooks and has some tongue-in-cheek moments, but the package feels kind of somber. “Contemplate This on the Tree of Woe” rails against nameless criminals “so careless in their calculations” and prophesizes about “a change coming on.” “Minimum Wage is a Gateway Drug” boldly campaigns for the poorly paid American. Hell, even with its silly name, “Clown Cars on Cinder Blocks” is a mournful and ready-for-death dirge.
For as fiery as Dillinger is now, nothing will ever top “Doublewhiskeycokenoice,” a fire-starting prize penned back in 1998. In under two and a half minutes, the chips-all-in sing-along invokes cult writer Nelson Algren, soul savant Otis Redding and this proclamation: “Praise God and pass the bottle of Beam/Because tonight I can’t seem to say what I mean/Don’t know if I would, even if I could, Amen.” Basement anthems have never been more sublime.
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