On Mclusky Do Dallas, the Cardiff punks embraced their outsider status to triumphant effect
Original release date: 1 April 2002
Label: Too Pure
The way Mclusky Do Dallas is now celebrated, you’d be forgiven for thinking the record turned them into stadium-headlining behemoths. But, as lead singer Andrew ‘Falco’ Falkous explained in a 2014 interview, Mclusky were big “only in our living rooms, only on our imagined balconies… I can only remember selling out two shows in the UK, both in London. Hardly the stuff of legend.”
Do Dallas, the Welsh band’s second album and first for cult London label Too Pure, really should have been the moment the band’s savagely satirical and ferocious punk rock entered the spotlight. Now, 20 years on, it is rightfully revered as a masterpiece. An unpolished slab of no-wave punk that didn’t give a toss about fitting into the contemporary music world. They didn’t have the right haircuts (“we looked like we were dressed by reverse style monkeys in the dark,” Falco once told The Music) and their sound was too raw, too belligerent, too abrasive, to ever be part of the New Rock Revolution.
Yet, to misappropriate Brian Eno’s infamous quip about the Velvet Underground, Do Dallas may have only sold, well, not very many, but everyone who bought a copy started a music blog. Despite the fact the album had little commercial success, those who did buy it clutched it tightly to their Coca-Cola-coloured hearts. Falco’s caustic wit and the untamed urgency of Do Dallas created a small but mighty community around Mclusky; fans felt like they were in on the secret, kicking back at the world together.
There’s a sneering, scabrous glee to every song on Do Dallas, as the band embraced their outsider status to triumphant effect. Recorded with Steve Albini in his Chicago studio, Do Dallas sounds huge, frazzled and righteously indignant. In fact, it’s a sound so dissonant, it’s hard to imagine how they even harnessed it into 36 minutes of snarling noise that’s equal parts hilarious and deadly serious. This roiling mix even had Albini declaring them the only band in Britain worth listening to.
The aim was to make, in Falco’s words, “a total balls-out rock record”. From the moment Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues hurtles towards its breathless climax, it’s clear that the band didn’t take that statement lightly. Everything seemed to coalesce on the record: Jon Chapple’s rusty-blade bass lines locked into tight grooves with Mat Harding’s frantic drumming, while Falco’s growling guitar snapped ferociously. At their core, though, they’re verse-chorus pop songs. As Falco has wryly pointed out: “It’s always meant to be pop music. Only, it’s fed through the filter of self-respect.”
And, of course, there’s the lyrics – ones you want to scream along to, scrawl onto toilet walls or type out on Twitter in ALL CAPS. Gareth Brown Says features perhaps the best opening line of all time: “All of your friends are cunts/ Your mother is a ball-point pen thief!” To Hell with Good Intentions, with its propulsive beat and wiry guitars, mischievously exclaims: “My love is bigger than your love/ We take more drugs than a touring funk band!” Then there’s Fuck This Band, the record’s only ‘ballad’, where Falco menacingly – and presciently – whispers: “Fuck this band, because they swear too much/ But if they split up, you’re responsible.”
Mclusky eventually split in 2005, amid barely concealed in-band animosity. They managed to release one more new record – 2004’s The Difference Between Me and You is that I’m Not on Fire – before they disbanded, but still failed to garner the stardom they deserved at the time. All members ended up going down their own musical paths: Chapple started moody indie outfit Shooting at Unarmed Men, and Falco and drummer Jack Egglestone (who had replaced Harding after Do Dallas) reinvented themselves as Future of the Left.
That appeared to be it. Mclusky’s influence seemingly destined to live on only in the history of alternative culture, their albums and live performances only talked about nostalgically in the back rooms of venues. But now, in the wake of Do Dallas’s 20th anniversary, they’re playing a sold-out tour that feels like they’re finally collecting their long overdue flowers. Falco himself has beamed about his pride of being in Mclusky, of creating a community of misfits, and “feeling like I was communicating something just by being myself, even if I am an arsehole sometimes”.
This sardonic self-awareness, paired with the band’s unruly rock, is what earned them their legacy in the first place. Falco has often been seen sporting a t-shirt on stage that bears the slogan ‘Poundland Shellac’, in response to a dismissive tweet by a journalist. “This is ridiculous,” Falco once retorted, “we were clearly an Asda-price Pixies.” Truth is, they could only ever sound like Mclusky.