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Dick Dale doesn’t make it easy to love him these days. First you have to get past all that fringe. And the scowl. And a ponytail so compensatory it could make up for the hair loss of Yul Brynner, Telly Savalas, and a whole college of Gyütö monks. Then there’s Dale’s zealous, prideful tending of his myth, which has him settling scores with historians of surf rock and making sure everybody knows he invented the stuff. His most recent release, 2001’s Spacial Disorientation, finds him swallowing whole that cherished nugget of aging-rocker wisdom: You should never do one thing well when you can do many things badly. Thanks to all the years he’s spent on heavy-gauge electric strings, he’s a heavy-handed acoustic guitarist. He’s an atrocious vocalist and a worse lyricist (Belo Horizonte isn’t coming back to you, Dick, because it’s stuck in Brazil and can’t get away at the moment). He has poor taste in backing vocals and possesses an inordinate fondness for tree chimes, rain sticks, wind effects, and “jungle” sounds, given that he isn’t Martin Denny. But when he shuts up and plays his guitar as God intended, unleashing his ferociously percussive staccato attack on his reverb-drenched, upside-down-strung Strat, Dale is every bit as good as he thinks he is. From “HMFIC” (“head motherfucker in charge” for those of you who weren’t in the shit) to a startlingly great cover of “Smoke on the Water,” the first five tracks of Disorientation prove that the King of the Surf Guitar hasn’t just been sitting around polishing his crown. Dale plays at 7:30 p.m., Monday, May 19, at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. $19.50. (202) 432-7328. (Glenn Dixon)