Dunedin's reputation as a 'music Capital' has too often rested
on notions of the tortured artist - a pale waif like being riddled
with trackmarks, prone to wailing into the microphone; or alternately,
impassively straddling ones noise emitting guitar. The waif artists
may have been known for breaking the law but there is an essential
passivism about their rebellion that makes them unlikely candidates
for bad boy status.
Lads have always been present for those who knew where to find them,
generally within the halcyon triangle of the Cook, the Gardies,
and the Fat Ladies Arms. These are the blokes of rugby, beer (preferably
speights) and frequent lay's (though not, perhaps, as frequent as
they would have you believe).
However, in the wake of England's 'New Lads' of a few years back,
Dunedin has witnessed an emerging trend of new laddism led by local
punk band the Ho' Dogs; a laddism cooler, sharper, and more likely
to be seen in polyester than Barkers stretch'n'sweat. The Ho' Dogs
negotiate the slippery slopes of a sexual politics whose complexity
is intriguing and often contradictory.
Equal parts G.G. Allin and Jarvis Cocker, the Ho' Dogs grew out
of local troublemakers the California Girls Cartel, who made their
headquarters in the abandoned California Girls Strip Club and indulged
in bouts of shameless self promotion as to their supposed debauched
ways and sexual prowess. The Ho' Dogs and associated bands The Aesthetics,
Big Organ, and the Trash Gordons have generated a scene known for
it's 'dirty' rock'n'roll and onstage bravado.
Fueled by beer and testosterone, an easy sexism is overlaid with
a sense of irony and play hitherto unseen in Dunedin guitar culture.
This is, most definitely, a boys club. Boys predominate at Ho' Dogs
gigs and take centre stage; the female component of the audience
appearing largely as admiring onlookers, girl groupies in a performance
where balls, quite frankly, do count. Lead singer Tim Doe, frequently
clad only in underwear, tiny belly protruding from pubescent body,
shouts abuse at the audience, dodges beer bottles and grabs other
members of the band and audience - sweaty boy pressed to sweaty
boy in exuberant embrace.
This onstage physicality is reinforced by a lyrical content obsessed
with the male body and in particular genitalia. With such illustrious
song titles as Blood on my Cock and Shave my Cock,
the organ becomes an object of narcissistic fascination to the singer:
Blood on my cock
Glass in my fist
I'm jerking off
Juggling deftly, the 'Dogs manage to avoid polarizing the issue
into one of homoeroticism versus strictly hetero(sexism). True new
age boys of the 90's, the Ho' Dogs inhabit a shifting terrain of
sexuality where gender stereotypes are available as anyone's toys.
From their opening gig at an art gallery to their performance suspended
over the pool at a local 'Swimathon' they have paraded with knowing
looks and casual struts.
Not exactly what you'd call subtle, the 'Dogs have bombarded Dunedin
with extensive media campaigns and largely self written articles
espousing their virtues (or lack of them), making them one of the
cities most prominent bands, despite being banned from several key
venues. Such profile is not always appreciated: witness a band currently
doing the gig circuit whose major hit (the catchy I Hate The
Ho 'Dogs) features a performance where The Ho'Dogs split seven
inch Faster than a Greasy Whore is dramatically torn up and
thrown away to a cheering audience. Reviewers have also been known
to be a little harsh on the band with one such reviewer subsequently
threatened with physical violence by an over protective 'Dogs fan.
You win some, you lose some; but the Ho 'Dogs take it all in their
stride. Defiantly politically incorrect and frequently offensive,
they remain one of Dunedin's more hard to catorgorise phenonenoms.
Their intrigue lies in their unpredictability, the hint of a smile
behind the brashness, the way they swerve between apparent planned
cleverness and silly boyish antics. Young and oh so pretty, these
boys wanna rock, and they wanna do it now....
We fuck every day we can
So we get our thrills
We fuck every way we can
While you pay the bills
20 June 1998
(Lyrics from Blood on my Cock and Fuck Your Wife
by The Ho' Dogs, 1997/98)