Stuck on Repeat: The Dicks “Hate the Police”

Stuck on Repeat

Sometimes a song from Austin’s past won’t get out of our heads and we’re forced to share it with you so it will get stuck in yours too, like a music nerd version of It Follows. Today we’re looking back at the Dicks’ hardcore classic “Hate the Police,” a self-explanatory protest song that sadly remains just as relevant today.

As exciting as the Austin punk scene is at the moment, it’s strangely apolitical. There is ample rage and frustration in the music of current stalwarts like Institute and the Fleshlights, but it’s all musical and not directed at any particular subjects. Classic Austin punk outfit the Dicks never had that option, though. The band could have made songs about cats and they’d still be political, fronted as they were by the legendary Gary Floyd, an openly gay communist in the heart of conservative ’80s Texas. Not content to be idly political, though, the Dicks made their recorded debut with “Hate the Police,” a vital early hardcore single that unfortunately hasn’t lost a bit of relevance.

Sung from the perspective of an unhinged cop, “Hate the Police” has the bluntness and simplicity of a protest song, utilizing the anger and aggression of hardcore to personify the violent mood of its narrator. The cop warns his mother, “You might have loved me/But now I’ve got a gun,” and that goes beyond a depressing statement to a relative, it’s a comment on public perception of police in general, the way they try to present themselves as friendly protectors of the community, until the guns come out and a history of questionable violence comes into the daylight. From Floyd’s view, police brutality isn’t a complicated issue, it’s an inevitability when you give weapons to true thugs, violent individuals whose “bad days” can result in unarmed people shot down in the streets for the crime of being the wrong race and the wrong ethnicity at the wrong time.


What’s even more telling is that Floyd doesn’t sing the song with a veneer of snarling sarcasm, like Jello Biafra brought to Dead Kennedys’ songs about the same subject. Floyd instead sings with howling pain, a hint at his blues influence but also of his desire to paint a portrait of an emotionally volatile individual who has been given enormous power. Floyd isn’t necessarily sympathetic to the plight of the angry cop, but he wants it to be abundantly clear that the officers who act out and commit violence where it isn’t warranted aren’t simply “bad guys,” they lack control over emotions, lashing out at those who are powerless in order to take some control over the mess of their own lives. Like a kid throwing a tantrum, the cop in “Hate the Police” is gunning down people of color because of misplaced rage, because he “had a bad day.”

The claustrophobic production, which makes it seem like the music is squeezing around you through heavy guitars as Floyd screams his way out of the bottom of the mix, only adds to that. It’s not for nothing that Mudhoney basically kept the production the same when they covered the song about a decade later; Mark Arm’s vocals are a bit clearer and they kick the song off with a howling intro that wouldn’t be out of place on a Sonics track, but they essentially leave “Hate the Police” untouched, merely bringing it to a new audience rather than radically altering it.

Given the current national climate, you’d think “Hate the Police” would be an Austin standard the same way “Louie, Louie” was to the Pacific Northwest in the ’60s. “Hate the Police” is overly due for a revival, and Austin on the whole could stand to use an injection of fearless politic in its music scene. After all, “You can’t find justice/It’ll find you.”

Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at  Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover