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House of Tudor 

A tribute to the 2-tone sound, and the sophisticated belligerence of Devil Doll

Wednesday, Feb 26 2003
The infectious ska hits that bounced across the British charts in 1979 may not have sounded as confrontational as their punk counterparts, but the bands that recorded them were intrinsically political. Being racially integrated, "2-tone" was as much a challenge to the social mores of the time as it was a description of the music that fused Jamaican rhythm with Anglo-punk velocity. Interestingly, it was not racism, but economics, that stemmed the second wave of ska (the first having taken place in Jamaica in the '60s). Furious skirmishes between working-class skinheads (who loved ska) and the more affluent rudeboys (who also loved ska) erupted at nearly every gig, making nightclub owners hesitant to book a show even if it was sure to sell out. By 1981, many of the bands had been blacklisted through no fault of their own, and the scene died.

Thankfully, Joe Massot had some foresight. In that year, he finished editing a 90-minute performance film called Dance Craze, which captured the U.K.'s heaviest stompers in their prime. Even without all the bells and whistles of modern-day music videos, Dance Craze is invigorating, absorbing, and often a bit absurd, testament to the rampageous energy of its stars -- Madness, the Specials, Bad Manners, the Selector, the Beat, and the Bodysnatchers (2-tone's only all-female outfit). Over the course of the film -- shown this week as part of "Tribute to the 2-Tone Sound" -- the combos strut and swagger, bounce, contort, and careen across the stage, inadvertently rousing the rabble, raising the roof, and making the basis for a great soundtrack. Sadly, at the time of the Dance Craze compilation's release, Chrysalis had become so alarmed by the growing reputation of Madness that the record company removed all the group's songs from the album. Still, for an ending, the record is a damn good starting point. "Tribute to the 2-Tone Sound" will begin with a screening of Dance Craze, followed by readings of firsthand "pork pie anecdotes," a raffle, and a DJ dance party, on Saturday, March 1, at the Edinburgh Castle at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 885-4074.

When all the male glamour-punks in town started taking swing lessons, sporting duck's asses, rolling 4-inch cuffs in their pants, and getting rough and tough in the cocktail lounge, they were met by female counterparts both onstage and off. But while a few of the newly suave dudes caught my attention with their bad-mannered jazz stylings, none of the performing ladies seemed able to strike that chord between vintage sophistication and punk belligerence -- until now. Devil Doll (aka Colleen Duffy) has a voice as smooth and shapely as the floor-length satin dresses she lavishly fills, but she can holler and growl like a member of the Runaways on a three-day bender. Her debut record, Queen of Pain, features a full-scale big band that swings effortlessly through jump, juke, samba, bossa nova, pop, and rockabilly, while her lyrics remain tongue-in-cheek. In keeping with Devil Doll's prime objective to turn up the heat and slake her crowd's craving for the sensual, Queen of Pain is a survey of the more derelict shadows of romance. At once the unattainable object of desire and the brunt of all its malevolence, the singer curls her lips around loneliness and loss on "It's Raining," with a deep-throated coo trailing across a sparse guitar riff with the lines, "Tried to drown but I just kept comin'/ Up for air, I can't seem to die/ Don't know why/ And it hurts so bad I can taste you/ Can't escape you." On "King of Brooklyn," she employs a womanly purr that makes "fuck you for never being true" sound like an invitation next to the fierce street-punk howl of "I want to kiss you and punch you in the face." Later, we find the much-wronged Devil Doll in the midst of a rockabilly rant, choosing booze over her brokenhearted beau in "Liquor Store." With a little something for everyone who prefers safety pins in her fishnets, it's not surprising the horned crooner has opened for the likes of X, Mike Ness, the Cramps, and Reverend Horton Heat. Now, she headlines the Parkside on Saturday, March 1, with Kitty Diggins and Kitten on the Keys opening at 10 p.m. Call 503-0393 or go to for ticket info.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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