Still in a cool place – Dodgy are back and touring Cornwall
WE'VE got a Dodgy mum to thank for the rejuvenated trio playing dates in Cornwall later this month.
Drummer Mathew Priest told me: "My mum and dad have lived in Sennen for over 20 years. She's always saying, 'why don't you play in Cornwall?'
"We played the SAS Ball in '96 and last year had a really great audience at the Eden Sessions, with people queuing round the biome to see us. She may be right, we should play down there more often."
The band bring their semi-acoustic Back To Back Tour to the Studio Bar, Penzance, on Thursday, May 30, the Scillonian Club, St Mary's on Friday, May 31 (in aid of Cornwall Air Ambulance) and the Taphouse, St Agnes on Saturday, June 1.
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Not only will they be celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut The Dodgy Album, but will also be playing their most recent release Stand Upright In A Cool Place, which to these ears sounds like their best album yet.
It's a truly beautiful set of songs – with the harmonies of Mathew, Nigel Clark and Andy Miller at the forefront – recalling everyone from Crosby, Stills and Nash to the new school of Fleet Foxes but with Dodgy's very British grasp of melody.
Not pretending to be the same group that rode the Britpop wave with hits like Good Enough and Staying Out For The Summer (don't worry, they still play them), Dodgy now sing about late love, regret, hope, and what's left in life. They're the anti-Stones.
Mathew said: "In 2008 we got back together and led a merry dance around each other. It was like any relationship – after ten years apart you cannot fall back in to the way it was.
"We steadily got used to each other again and realised there was still that chemistry between us. We started writing songs together and they were good.
"When we talked about making another album, we knew we had to go that extra mile and make it our best just to quieten the critics who understandably would probably go '90s band, reformed, Good Enough, bleurgh'."
When the band formed they all brought something different to the rehearsal room – Nigel loved The Clash and Crass, Andy was the Pink Floyd head and Math was the mod and soul fan. What they all agreed on were Jimi Hendrix and The Who.
"We had to find those touchstones again. This time it was the acts on the Bella Union label like Midlake, John Grant and Fleet Foxes."
They were so enamoured with the label they sent their demos to its boss, former Cocteau Twins bassist Simon Raymonde, who immediately recommended they hook up with Matt Pence, who had recently mixed albums by Grant and Midlake.
Mathew added: "We flew out to Texas in the middle of July to work with him. We were the only ones on the streets. People would shout at us, 'why are you on the sidewalk?'. Because it was warm. We were burnt to a crisp."
The band are unanimous in their opinion that Matt's insight and work on the tracks has brought out an inner majesty in the songs that even exceeded the band's expectations.
So what of that period when they were having Top 20 singles and were alongside Blur and Oasis in the gossip columns?
"What I remember most is never stopping and it being crazy. We released our first singles in '91 and '92, made the first album in '93, then found the time to make Homegrown in '94, which was quite a big hit, all the time touring incessantly to Japan and Canada, and then Europe with The Lightning Seeds, while recording Free Peace Sweet in '96."
It was with the release of that album, which hit the Top Ten in the UK and spawned their big anthem Good Enough, that things got even more crazy.
"You have that one hit and you break through the ceiling," declared Mathew. "Suddenly you're not the underdog anymore and you're getting invited to premieres and Elton John's birthday.
"You're allowed beyond the VIP rope and it's only then you realise most of them are paranoid drug-taking fruitcakes.
"I did have some great times – going on a bender with the people from The Fast Show and ending up in Martin Clunes' flat overlooking the Thames with Neil Morrissey. I was in an episode of Men Behaving Badly but it was real."
However, it was this aspect of the band that did for them.
"Nigel hated all that, he thought it was all fake. He'd had two kids while I was out all the time and Andy was dating the likes of Denise Van Outen. He resented all that and the band's relationship had disintegrated so much we didn't realise."
Matthew added: "I always knew it was a fairground ride and wouldn't last. I was always a tourist in it.
"It's a pity those people who strive for fame these days don't realise how hollow and shallow it is."
Now they are back doing it for themselves and the growing number of fans who have seen them live in the past couple of years.
"We've just recorded five new songs and they're even better than the last album. There's one song I've written the lyrics for and is probably the most proud I've been of a song – it's called California Gold and is about the Cornish miners who travelled to America to make their fortunes. It's one of those songs about following your dreams and we'll definitely play it in Cornwall."
See www.dodgyology.com for more details and definitely check out Stand Upright In A Cool Place, an album which deserves a bigger audience.