Dodgy, Mark Morriss

Stephen Bray 28/03/2008

When Dodgy finally limped to an end in the early 2000s, they were a sorry sight indeed. Original singer Nigel Clark had gone, to be replaced by a Rod Stewart sound-a-like. Gigs descended from being festival highlights to being a self-funded tour of the toilet venues of the county. The final album was funded entirely by (what remained of) the fans. The final indignity of this incarnation was caught in a depressing media glare as, desperate for some attention, they turned up unannounced on a Scottish island involved in a social-exclusion experiment intending to sing a few songs for the population…and were turned away.

But all of this (plus the frighteningly bitter break-up) is Water Under The Bridge now, as the New! Reformed! Dodgy! are out to take back what's rightfully theirs: their own place in the nostalgia market, and it's a lot less tragic than it might have been.

Mark Morriss of the Bluetones supplies a sympathetic support act. He provides just the right mix of new material and old Bluetones hits and misses, admirably going after the rather-difficult-to-follow Misty's Big Adventure.

And so to Dodgy. Seeing the setlists beforehand has somewhat spoiled any possible surprises, but the state of Nigel Clark is still a shock! Carrying both excess weight and excess bling, he's a troubling sight indeed, something akin to finding your childhood treehouse being used as a crack den. Clark is far from the lithe and friendly frontman that he once was. Can the band still retain their charm even with the previous decade etched all too clearly onto their faces and bellies?

It turns out that they can, and very much so. The setlist is heavily skewed towards the Greatest Hits, with the only noticeable Top 40 casualty being their final single, 'Every Single Day'. From the second album Homegrown, the hits 'Making The Most Of' and 'Melodies Haunt You' are particular highlights. They're the sort of songs that wormed their way inside you when you were younger but lay dormant and forgotten about until now. They also seek to remind you of just how damn catchy and tuneful Dodgy were for the times in which they operated. When the rest of the music business endured sludgy Grunge, punky, angular Britpop and the naval-gazing dirge of Dad Rock, Dodgy were one of the few reminders of 60s harmonies, pop sensibilities and songs about, y'know… love, peace, drugs and all that.

The hits are performed with enthusiasm and remain largely unchanged, although 'If You're Thinking Of Me' is somewhat stripped down (to good effect). Non-hits include the debut album's early Who sound-a-like 'Stand By Yourself', as well as the elegiac 'Long Life', which should rightfully be a funeral staple with the beautifully emotive couplet, “This is been a long life now mine is nearly through / And if I'd have my time again I'd spend it all with you.”

An anthemic, soaring 'Grassman' finishes off proceedings in quite some style. As for the future? Well, the unexpected treat of Free Peace Sweet's 'U.K.R.I.P.' contains a possible glimpse when Clark changes the original pessimism of the line, “Shall we start all over again? I don't know, I don't know” to “I hope so, I hope so” - providing hope that perhaps Dodgy are back to stay for at least a while. I imagine that many a summer festival will be greatly enlivened by their appearance.

Oh, and 'Good Enough' is far less annoying than you remember it being.