Saturday, August 1, 2009

August 1: Dead Boys, "Young, Loud, And Snotty"

Artist: Dead Boys
Album: Young, Loud, and Snotty
Year: 1977
Label: Sire

When it came to presenting the violent, ugly, and overtly nihilistic aspects of the punk rock genre, few did it better than the short-lived, seminal band, Dead Boys. Representing the second half of early Cleveland, OH punk rockers, Rocket From The Tombs (Pere Ubu being the other), the Dead Boys took the far more aggressive and straightforward approach, as opposed to the more experimental style of Pere Ubu. Taking influence on their sound from New York Dolls, their "scary" factor from Alice Cooper, and their energy from The Stooges, few bands have so perfectly embodied all of the elements of what makes punk rock great. While the band only lasted just under two years, the music they created continues to influence artists to this day. Dead Boys released two albums, the second of which is largely forgettable, mostly due to poor choices in production. However, the bands' debut record, 1977's Young, Loud, and Snotty, is one of the greatest, most powerful albums ever recorded, and was absolutely essential in defining the punk genre, as well as laying the roots for what would become the hardcore genre.

Young, Loud, and Snotty came to be after Joey Ramone encouraged the group to move to new York City, and the band became regular performers at CBGB's. Gaining an audience quickly, in no small part due to their wild stage antics, and within a year, they were in the studio recording for Sire Records. The fact that Young, Loud, and Snotty is able to capture the groups' reckless energy within a studio environment is in no small part due to the presence of producer, Genya Ravan. Having fronted the band, Goldie and The Gingerbreads (who hold the distinction of being the first all-female band to be signed to a major label), she was well rooted in rock, and her production work is absolutely perfect. The Dead Boys' ties to their former bandmates is no more obvious than in their most famous song, "Sonic Reducer." The song was co-written with Pere Ubu frontman, David Thomas, and has still stands today as one of the most recognizable and important songs of the late 1970's punk rock explosion. The song has been covered by bands ranging from Dozer to Overkill, as well as making regular appearances during live performances by Pearl Jam. Young, Loud, and Snotty features a seemingly strange over of its own, as the band presents a live recording of their take on Syndicate of Sounds' classic, "Hey Little Girl." The other songs found on Young, Loud, and Snotty are just as good, and there is not a moment wasted anywhere on the album.

The music of Dead Boys is very confrontational and hostile, yet the sense of urgency is what dominates a majority of their sound. It is clear that the band has much that they wish to convey to the listener, and they wish to do so in as quick and efficient a manner as possible. The core of their sound lies within their dual guitarists, Cheetah Chrome and Jimmy Zero. Chrome (real name Gene O'Connor), was the other author of "Sonic Reducer," and his lead guitar work is nothing short of stellar. Whether playing lightning fast, pulverizing chords or one of his quick, brilliant solos, he is nothing short of spectacular. Jimmy Zero (real name William Wilden) keeps the songs moving, and his interplay with Chrome laid the groundwork for later dual-guitar based hardcore bands. While neither of the guitarists will make "best ever" lists, it is the emotion and speed with which they play that makes them so extraordinary. The rhythm section of Jeff Magnum and Johnny Blitz are just as amazing, with their efforts truly making the band stand above the rest. The bass playing of Jeff Magnum (real name Jeff Halmagy) is as menacing as it is powerful, and the manner in which he drives the songs is nothing short of perfect. Drummer Blitz (real name John Madansky) plays as hard, if not harder, than any of his contemporaries. Often approaching what seems like pure chaos, he is also notorious for slamming his bass pedal as hard as he could while singer Stiv Bators had his head inside it during live performances. Though always bordering on uncontrolled mayhem, the music of Dead Boys is nothing short of stunning, and it often seems as if they are trying to injure or break the listener through the energy and urgency found in their music.

Easily one of the wildest and angriest frontmen in the history of music, singer Stiv Bators and his stage antics remain legendary in the music world. His aggressive, angst-ridden singing/yelling vocal style is the perfect balance of all of the styles that are found in his influence. The energy of Iggy Pop, the sinister mood of Alice Cooper, and the sneer of the finest punk frontmen, it is clear that Bators is well aware of his roots, and pays a fantastic tribute to them. Many of the songs are surprisingly musical, as tracks like "All This And More" sound as if they could have been strange, underground hits from the 1950's with their strangely "retro" sound. The lyrical themes on Young, Loud, and Snotty run the usual gamut of punk rock, with angst-fueled musings on love, authority, and youth; all polished off with the brilliant screaming and whining of Bators. Even in his death, Bators stirred up controversy. Tragically dying after being hit by a taxi in Paris, Bators will required him to be cremated and his ashes spread over the grave of Doors frontman, Jim Morrison. Though some say that the request was filled, popular rumor is that his ashes were in fact snorted up by his then girlfriend. This rumor can be supported by evidence found in the documentary film "Polyester." Never conforming to the norm, there have truly been few punk frontmen who so perfectly represented the energy and style of the genre as well as Stiv Bators.

A band that truly did things "their" way throughout their entire career, Dead Boys remain one of the most highly influential and well respected bands to come out of the late 1970's punk explosion. A band that decided to break-up, as opposed to caving to their label's desire for their music to become "more mainstream," they embody everything that it meant to truly be "punk." With the full tilt energy of their rhythm section, combined with the seemingly chaotic dual guitars, Young, Loud, and Snotty is a true musical powerhouse and remains a massive musical and stylistic influence to this day. Stiv Bators similarly remains an iconic frontman, perfectly combining the energy, emotion, and style that takes Dead Boys sound to the next level. Truth be told, few bands of the era were able to bring as high a level of energy as consistently as Dead Boys, and their legendary "Sonic Reducer" serves as a perfect example of the bands' stunning sound and spirit. Though only lasting two years, the impact that the band made during that time rivals countless bands with careers lasting ten times as long. Quickly recording their debut record, 1977's Young, Loud, and Snotty remains one of the most remarkable and unparalleled albums of the late 1970's punk movement, and similarly, one of the most unbeatable rock records ever.

Standout tracks: "Sonic Reducer," "What Love Is," and "I Need Lunch."

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