On Dodgy’s first tour twenty years ago, their fans had to call promoters and venues to find out where they were playing.
This “secret” gig in the north London boozer Shane MacGowan uses as his front room requires less investigative powers. It’s still a return to roots for a band typed as festival specialists since “Staying Out for the Summer” gave them a perennial al fresco crowd-pleaser.
Shaking off the rust in this low-key setting, Dodgy are promoting Stand Upright In A Cool Place, their first album of new songs since original singer Nigel Clark’s return in 2007 after a decade’s absence. They think it deserves to give them a new lease of life, to replace some of the minor Britpop hits Clark is tired of. They’ve waited by the radio a couple of times for promised plays. North Korean radio, they “explained” on Facebook when these didn’t occur: Kim Jong-un was always a fan.
The core trio (plus live bassist) have aged slightly more than is inevitable, evidence of hard or good living: drummer Matthew Priest, a friendly heckler observes, looks like a “hip-hop gamekeeper”. Clark’s return to Worcestershire has resulted in the new record’s bucolic feel. “Waiting for the Sun”, a bittersweet rejoinder to their biggest hit, was written as his Malvern home was enveloped in snow, he explains, its odd chords struck by gloved ham-fists. It asks listeners to live in the present, his dearest wish for his band. “Tripped and Fell” and “Ragged Stone Hill” dig deeper into Malvern’s soil, recounting the 13-century legend of a monk made to crawl up the titular hill for loving a woman. The latter song, with its rustic groove and abrasive riffs, could be from an earlier, 1970s free festival circuit. Still, stone-faced Andy Miller picks out concisely inventive, warm guitar lines with barely a flicker of fingers. Priest stands up at drums he rarely hits in this small space, the band’s most recognisable figure reduced to Bez-like maraca-shaking.
Other new songs are too vague to really hit home: the Coalition-bashing “Back of You” is sadly left for another day. Their last, mildly psychedelic Top 20 hit, “Found You”, is punctuated by Clark’s gripes at its nonsense lyrics. “Staying Out for the Summer” is scratched from the set-list altogether, a song he no longer wants to sing. Dodgy are insisting they have a future, however reduced.