Thursday, January 30, 2014

Throwback Thursday: The Dead Boys "Young, Loud And Snotty" (1977)

Young Loud and Snotty
Young Loud and Snotty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you had to chose only one record to play for someone so that they understand what Punk Rock was all about, which do you choose?  The Pistols? Ramones? The Clash or The Damned? Dead Kennedys or Black Flag? All solid, head of the class picks for sure, but if it were my decision to make I wouldn't think twice.  I'd immediately reach for The Dead Boys' Young, Loud And Snotty.  And I'd crank the stereo up to eleven.

The title is pitch-perfect: five sneering, snarling, unkempt and uncompromising punks who landed in New York City via Cleveland bathed in the fallout from the explosion of protopunks Rocket From The Tombs, stripped of any of that band's artier pretensions (that piece became Pere Ubu) and dunked in the spilled beer and slosh of CBGB's.   They played sloppy rock-n-roll of the heavy, loud and fast variety, like an amphetamine-fueled hybrid of The Stooges and The New York Dolls jamming in a garage at 2:00 AM and pissing off the neighbors on purpose.  The frontal attack of Stiv Bators, Cheetah Chrome and Jimmy Zero seethed and slashed, propelled by the driving power of Jeff Magnum's bass and Johnny Blitz's drumming.

The Dead Boys were swept up in Sire Records' campaign to pluck the best of the burgeoning scene (Ramones, Talking Heads and Richard Hell were other CBGB's regulars who also landed on Seymour Stein's suddenly-hip label), and in 1977 delivered their debut album. Stiv starts the album by spitting out the opening lyric, "I don't need anyone!," and closes it with a strangled scream of "Down in flames!" In between those moments is a little under a half an hour of frenetic, puerile, vulgar yet undeniably catchy and fun Punk Rawk. Young, Loud And Snotty is utterly without pretense.  There's no political agenda, no social commentary, no deep message here - and certainly no silly love songs (unless your idea of romantic crooning includes lines like "I don't really want to dance/I just want to get in your pants.")

The album opens with the band's finest track, the searing "Sonic Reducer," an aural stun-gun that leaps at you like a caged beast.  I daresay "Sonic Reducer" would be a strong contender for best punk rock song ever; it certainly sets the bar extremely high for the rest of the album.  While not every track reaches the dizzying heights of the opener, everything ranges from very good to excellent.  The album is definitely front-loaded however: side one also gives us the anthemic "All This And More," the straightforward rocker "What Love Is," and a perfect bored-youth celebration in "Ain't Nothin' To Do," all of which are five-star efforts.  Only the occasionally draggy gloominess of "Not Anymore" offers any reprieve from the head-thunking assault.

Side two pales slightly, suffering from some same-y sounding material and a decidedly immature and misogynistic streak (see "Caught With The Meat In Your Mouth" and "I Need Lunch," the latter supposedly written about/directed at Lydia Lunch), but by this point in the proceedings you know what you're in for.  You can either snicker along like a fourth-grader just discovering dirty jokes, or move along to the next track.  A cover of The Syndicate Of Sound's 1960s garage-band hit "Hey Little Girl" is a pleasant surprise, foreshadowing Stiv's later solo efforts in that genre, and the two songs that close the album, "High Tension Wire" and "Down In Flames," bring us full circle back to where we started, if considerably more exhausted than when we began.

Young, Loud And Snotty is everything a Punk Rock album should be: loud, fast, abrasive fun.  The Dead Boys would follow this with a second album before finally burning out, and many years later alternate takes of the debut's tracks would be issued as Younger, Louder And Snottier.  The second LP, We Have Come For Your Children, is worth seeking out; the cash-in on the debut is best left on the shelf.

Sonic Reducer by Dead Boys on Grooveshark

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