San Antonio's Dirty Dog Dick Eaters make outraged music for outrageous times

As much as the name suggests the band could wear out its welcome after a couple of soundalike songs of generic thrash, its debut album holds up through the end of its final track.

click to enlarge D3E’s current line up consists of Eloy Pina-Kolach, W. Witosky and Jeff Turner, from top to bottom. - Courtesy Photo / W. Witosky & The Dirty Dog Dick Eaters
Courtesy Photo / W. Witosky & The Dirty Dog Dick Eaters
D3E’s current line up consists of Eloy Pina-Kolach, W. Witosky and Jeff Turner, from top to bottom.

There's no shortage of punk bands whose music falls short of the promise of their gleefully offensive monikers.

Memorable as their names might be, can anybody hum a few bars of a song by John Cougar Concentration Camp, Ancient Chinese Penis or Dick Delicious and the Tasty Testicles? Thought so.

San Antonio's W. Witosky & the Dirty Dog Dick Eaters set themselves far apart from that pack thanks to earnest blue-collar songwriting and a willingness to color outside of genre lines. As much as the name suggests the band could wear out its welcome after a couple of soundalike songs of generic thrash, its debut album Earn Your Wings holds up through the end of its twelfth and final track.

Sure, Earn Your Wings, which dropped earlier this year, packs in brief blasts of fury like "Punchable Face" and "Stay Gone," but it also shows a band capable of stretching out. Several longer tunes include storytelling lyrics and arrangements that lean toward a ramshackle kind of Americana. Guest musicians pop up on keys, saxophone and violin throughout.

With Witosky's gravel-and-broken glass voice at the forefront and drummer Jeff Turner's rock-solid playing gelling things into some semblance of order, the band goes after the material with an abandon not unlike mid-period Replacements. Only with a more political bent.

"We all get into punk because it's therapeutic," said Witosky, 41, who started playing in hardcore bands during his early teens. "You can write 1,000 generic angry political songs, but at some point, you start paying attention to music outside of that. For me, it was people like Aretha, Dylan, Springsteen — people who can tell a story with a song."

That's especially clear on the album's nearly six-minute closer, "No More Winters." Witosky edges toward the bleak singer-songwriter territory of Dylan's "The Ballad of Hollis Brown" and Springsteen circa Nebraska. Punctuated by a melancholy fiddle, the track spins the tale of a broken man coming to terms with growing up in a broken home.

That story appears to mirror aspects of Witosky's own life. After his parents split up, he spent time living with a mother who'd joined a religious cult. The time he was able to be around his music-loving dad introduced him to rock 'n' roll and its promise of freedom — genre lines be damned.

"I didn't have this separation of what was punk and what wasn't, because it was all rock 'n' roll," said Witosky, whose tapestry of tattoos includes ink of late Springsteen sax player Clarence Clemons. "To me there wasn't anything saying you couldn't listen to the Ramones and to Springsteen."

For all of Earn Your Wings' political rage, Witosky comes across as less of a Jello Biafra-style dispenser of political dictates than a working guy trying to make sense of bleak times. Could be because he's a union electrician with two kids at home.

Whatever the case, his lyrics repeatedly target politicians who pander for votes but can't seem to give poor folks a break.

"Hide your shame with debt and stress you collect, pay it off to someone else who might forget," Witosky sings on album opener "Burden of Man."

Although Earn Your Wings' array of guest musicians gives it dense feel at times, the D3Es — as the band tends to abbreviate its name — deliver a more stripped-down approach live. Witosky strums a pickup-equipped acoustic guitar through a Marshall stack while Turner and new bassist Eloy Pina-Kolach keep the rhythm section chugging ahead.

With the band regularly performing the Texas circuit, Witosky has his sights on adding a second guitarist. But if that doesn't happen, he's not sweating it.

"If you write a good song, you should be able to play it acoustically or fast as fuck with electric guitars," he said. "It doesn't matter."

Given Witosky's eagerness to deliver a message with the D3E's music, does he worry an offensive name and lyrics that sometimes descend into politically incorrect adolescent humor will turn off potential listeners?

Maybe. But that's also not something he spends time worrying about.

After all, the Dirty Dog Dick Eaters are a punk band at the core.

"Going to junior high and high school in Oklahoma, did it to me," Witosky said. "All that small-town shit left me with a lot of 'fuck you' in my system."

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Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.

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