Stiff’s biggest ever album release in the US was the self-titled debut from the Staten Island-based power pop trio Dirty Looks. The LP sold over 100,000 copies in 1980 with the sharp-dressed three-piece coming across like a feisty version of XTC. Power chords and urgency that put the rocket up the likes of more fashion-conscious most punks of the day, Dirty Looks were Patrick Barnes (guitar and vocals), the late Marco Sin (bass and vocals) and Peter Parker (drums and vocals).
Their spiritual home was the legendary punk hangout CBGBs in New York and, on touring the UK they played alongside kindred spirits Any Trouble and Tenpole Tudor. They released three singles in the UK, starting with Lie To Me (BUY 66) in 1980. Two albums followed, the afore-mentioned eponymous debut (largely produced by Talk Talk’s Tim Friese-Green) and Turn It Up (produced by The Motors’ Nick Garvey), both of which were collected and remastered in 2007 as Dirty Looks’ Complete Stiff Years compendium.
Listened to with fresh, 2007 ears, Dirty Looks came out shining. “They Got Me Covered (track one on The Complete Stiff Years) could almost be a Bloc Party intro,” wrote Alex Ogg for Takmarx. “It’s sharp, insistent pop at breakneck pace that wouldn’t sound out of place on one of the better Hot Rods/Feelgood albums. Yeah, you can trace elements of the group’s bar band heritage, but they were also regulars at CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City, and some of that spirit seeps into the songs - think a less precious, more poppy Television.”