It was a cold wet November evening much like any other, the rain was heavy and constant, the wind abrasive and strong. I made my way through the streets of Yatton heading for the most iconic edifice of any village, the pub. Although I’d never been in Yatton before I was struck immediately about the familiarity of the place, nothing was unusual, unexpected. Everything is as you would expect from a small city satellite in the South West of England. Nestled 10 miles south of Bristol its collection of 60s and 70s semis line the streets in an ordered and utilitarian fashion. The odd Victorian or Georgian building stands out, sprinkled between the prefabricated streets. A hint maybe at the village that once was; a faint memory at best. It’s hard to believe that it in all this uniform mundanity that one of the most controversial bands of the 21st century was born, kicking and screaming in the quiet.
Nestled between this disenchanted suburbia and a commercial estate I spot it, the temple on my pilgrimage. The appearance of this warm country pub is betrayed by the neon colours flashing from the windows in every changing rhythmic tones. As I approach the Market Inn I can hear the growl of electric guitars grow steadily louder. As you enter the low ceiling, large beams and white washed walls greet you. Along with the smell of beer and the compulsory red pub carpet, you are left in no doubt where you are.
The place is packed and everybody’s attention is on the band playing in the corner of the pub. A three piece: a singer/banjo player, a trumpeter and a drummer they appear to be playing a kind of blues in an upbeat Pop style. I’m not 100% sure it works but everyone’s hooked. I order a pint at the bar and get chatting to a Father and Son who are perched high on the bar stools. They have come to watch family and friends and laugh when I ask whether they intend to have a go. They explain to me the night is great for locals and friend to get together and listen to some live music it appears something that they and the community really value. We talk about their jobs and the musicians playing here, I choose the moment and I ask them about the Dysfunctions! The father immediately walks away, no explanation, no eye contact he starts talking to another local who is leaning against the wall, they start looking towards me with hostility. The son looks at me in frustration and spends a minute thinking of the right words to say. ‘Look everyone’s trying to have a good night there’s no need to bring up those w*****s’.
I knew that the Dysfunctions tended to burn bridges but I thought here where the scene they spearheaded was born there would be some camaraderie. Dad Music (a genre they’re credited with creating) has been the music and cultural phenomena of the last ten years reviving sales in CDs and restarting the physical music regression revolution or PMRR as it’s known colloquially.
The Dysfunctions as you may know are a four piece that are currently bothering the world of music with their new album ‘a Llama comes to town’. Accused of selling out, their new album is watered down pop mush that has lost them critical acclaim and their original fan base. However, it has brought them international fame and a lucrative World tour.
It is a million miles away from their much celebrated debut ‘biscuits for everyone’ which split the music industry in two. Their original sound was a mix of animal noise and large guitar feedback which created an almost unrecognisable sound. They claimed that they were post music and as a band they believed that rock was dead, and that they were making audible testament to this notion. They made ‘noise’ in an attempt to inform the music buying masses of the need for inaction and to mourn the death of music. For all their posturing their songs were unmistakable noise anthems that stuck in the mind and nagged at the soul like a spiritual chewing gum; you know they are bad for you but you can’t stop chewing. Their music was formed on the pub circuit 4 years ago stating here in this uninspired mecca to dad music. With a handful of bands they played all the small pubs around Bristol circling like an invading suburban dad army. Bristol eventually welcomed them with open arms appreciating their energy and vivid obscure sentimentality. Their frenetic live shows coupled with their make shift albums (they were by now signed to ‘up yours’ record label) earned them a notoriety as they toured the Countries great city venues. It all culminated in a gig at the Brixton Academy an event so dangerous that even the label abandoned them. Edward Guttering the exec at ‘up yours’ claimed “that if this was the future of entertainment I want no part of it.” The gig did two things; it catapulted them into the national consciousness through tabloid and social media outrage and it landed them with a damages bill so large that would have to fill an international stadium tour for the next 30 years to pay it off.
As the band finishes, the lad I was talking to goes up to some of the guys on a table close to the band they all look my way and seem less than pleased to see me. However they don’t appear to want to confront me move, I’m more of an irritant, as I start to wonder the wisdom of asking band related questions, I’m approached by a lady to the left of me. She speaks with a soft Somerset twang she introduces herself as Carol. “Do you know them those dysfunctions, well do you know those f*****s owe me $150! If you see them be sure to pass on my regards and tell them to give me my money and then f*** off and die!” Carol looks as though she might hit me, but doesn’t and instead turns and leaves the bar. The landlord leans over and tells me not to worry and that she always is a little hysterical, he then goes on to tell me that everybody is a little edgy as it appears the village may be in trouble. It appears as though a deal is being made to turn the adjacent fields into a fracking site and there is real concern whether it will flatten the village. He and the rest of the village seem convinced that this has something to do with the Dysfunctions and whilst there is lots of theories no-one really knows the true answer.
After a career wrecking gig, a mountain of debt and a decimated fan base it appeared that the dysfunctions had one choice…Sell-out, and it seems that they are attempting to do just that. Abandoning their angry energy the last two albums have seen them create a more melodic and formulaic poppy sound, one that appeals to the lighter waving music fan.
Their previous album ‘Jeans and T-shirts’ won them number one spot in the mid-west suburban album charts but also a place in the hearts of Middle America, where their act has become a huge bestseller. They play most nights now in Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas attracting large crowds of middleclass suburban Rednecks. They have found a discomfortable fit within this market and occasional outbursts lose them some fans. However their rugged good lucks and high energy sounds allow them to always fill out the venues even if their credibility has bottomed. Some say they have found purpose, other that the beer has just run out, whatever the reason they are no longer a force to be reckoned with.
Someone shouts in the pub and suddenly a pint flies past my head and smashes into the bar. Two grown men swing at each other and a chair flies from one end of the bar to the other, smashing into pieces as it hits the white washed walls. A lady stares at me with pure rage in her eyes, you’d better f*** off mate. I didn’t question her, just took my coat and ran, as I left the pub I could hear the smashing of glasses and curses, I watch for a minute outside thinking. A table smashes through the window, it’s time to go, I get into my car and drive. As I drive out of Yatton the Dysfunctions come on the CD player, I eject it and throw it out the window. There is nothing else to be said.
Arnold P Scotts