As the aphorism goes, “better late than never” — though I do feel badly for not having done so earlier.
Two decades ago, I wrote an album review of Little Man in the Canoe (LMitC) by the punk rock band, the Dayglo Abortions. At the time, I was an undergrad at UVic, and doing volunteer work for the Martlet.
Unfortunately, my review came off as rather arrogant and dismissive and also seemed to disparage the Dayglos as a band. For this, I must sincerely and humbly apologize to them.
Back then, I recall that I was a bit upset that they had changed singers from “Cretin” (Murray Acton) to “Gymbo Jak.” While Gymbo had/has a strong vocal style, the new band seemed to have a more angry, serious and less humorous demeanor than the original Dayglos. Thus, I didn’t really give LMitC a fair chance.
Looking back, however, many of the disc’s lyrics were remarkably prescient. Take the song “Homophobic Sexist Cokeheads,” for example: a few years after its release, the now-notorious Westboro Baptist Church would come into international prominence. Their leader and founder, the late Pastor Fred Phelps Sr., has been accused of severe child and spousal abuse, as well as drug abuse, by several of his estranged children. As well, Pastor Phelps went far beyond disagreement with homosexuality, to demonizing gays and lesbians (along with many other groups of people he disliked and/or disagreed with).
After listening to the album several more times following my review, I began to appreciate the new style more. I also remember a song which dealt with prejudice and discrimination against poor and homeless people (“Don’t give him any sympathy, just give him all your change / He’s the one that’s normal, and you’re the one deranged…”), and common but important topics such as paying off piles of bills, and the wrongdoings of predatory movie moguls, and aggressive, over-reactive bouncers (“Brick Shithouse Bouncers”).
I recall thinking that the production quality of LMitC was slightly lower than that of Two Dogs Fucking – Deux Chiens Fourrent or Here Today, Guano Tomorrow. However, the review sounded way too harsh, and made it seem as though the album was totally devoid of musical merit, which simply wasn’t true.
Some years ago, I went to a music store in Japan. I had heard that punk rock was quite popular there, so I asked the clerk if there were any Dayglo albums for sale. She checked the files and replied, “I’m sorry, but they’re sold out.” I was impressed that the Dayglos had become somewhat famous outside of Canada and parts of the U.S.
I myself was an aspiring musician for several years, but I didn’t have what it takes to make it in the music business; I only had a modicum of talent, plus I lacked the sheer self-discipline and work ethic which characterises bands/artists such as the Dayglos. This is a group which actually faced obscenity charges back in the ‘80s, though they eventually won the case. There is also the issue of widespread file-sharing and free downloading of music since the late ‘90s, but I’m not trying to make excuses here; I wasn’t really suited for the industry. I also note that the Dayglos have always been a great touring band, and I’ve seen them live in concert several times.
By all accounts, the current and former members of the band are cool guys who are really generous, down to Earth, and “Proud to Be a Canadian” (a famous Dayglos song from the album Feed Us a Fetus). Thus, I’d like to once again offer my apologies, and to give a retro-active recommendation to LMitC. Please just be aware, though, that you cannot listen to a Dayglos album without feeling a whole range
of emotions and opinions, no matter who you are.
I myself don’t agree with certain lyrics in many of their songs, but that’s the point. The Dayglos are not about forcing people to agree with them; rather, they’re about challenging people to think, and stretching the boundaries of human communication. With all due respect to Eminem, he doesn’t really know what controversy is about compared to the Dayglos, although he’s a great artist in his own right.
As a final side note, there’s also a book about the Dayglos, entitled, Argh Fuck Kill: The Story of the Dayglo Abortions, by Chris Walter. It promises to be an intriguing read.