Saturday, February 25, 2012

February 25: The Dictators, "Go Girl Crazy!"

Artist: The Dictators
Album: Go Girl Crazy!
Year: 1975
Label: Epic

Though even in modern times, they are still seen as rather far apart on the musical spectrum, when one considers the evolution and form of the styles, it is impossible to deny the strong connections between heavy metal and punk rock.  The linage of both genres can be traced back to the likes of The Stooges and The MC5 among other bands, and in many ways, the only difference is within the actual musical arrangements and form.  This reality is made more clear by the fact that throughout the 1970's, there were a number of bands that attempted to find the balance between these two musical styles, and few were more successful in this venture than when one explores the music of The Dictators.  Bringing together the heavy, almost pummeling sounds of heavy metal with a stripped down, almost sophomoric attitude, The Dictators did all they could to point out all the irony and hypocrisy within the rock world, and yet they rarely get the credit they deserve for their pioneering musical efforts.  While many bands copied their sound and attitude, there is simply no getting around the fact that the music which The Dictators created remains the pinnacle of the fusion of heavy metal and punk, and their records stand as an oft-overlooked classics of the 1970's.  Each track they recorded reinforces their distinctive sound, and one can quickly understand everything there is to know about The Dictators by experiencing their fantastic 1975 debut, Go Girl Crazy!

In every aspect, within the first moments of the albums' lead song, "The Next Big Thing," the entire personality of The Dictators becomes apparent, and while it suggests a rather comical nature, one cannot deny the powerful musical arrangement here, as well as throughout the entire album, that is led by the guitar of Ross "The Boss" Funicello.  As soon as the music drops in, everything from Black Sabbath to Blue Oyster Cult comes to mind, and the progression injects a superb amount of energy into every inch of the album.  The band pushes the overall sound to a point that it almost becomes cliché, but their ability to stop "just short" of that point proves the genius that lived behind their carefree persona.  The way in which Funicello locks in with the second guitar of Scott Kempner and bassist Andy Shernoff is true musical perfection, and the combined sound is one of the most imposing ever captured on tape, as the energy never relents anywhere on Go Girl Crazy!  Drummer Stu Boy Kingadds the ideal finishing touch each song, and it is within his performances that the unique sway to their songs is formed.  It is also the slightly-sludgy, yet constantly driving sound of The Dictators that quickly proves to be as good as heavy metal gets, and it is the clear control of their sound and energy that sets these songs apart from those of their peers.  Yet it is the fact that there is an edge and attitude within the music, and the odd timing of the songs, that makes them fit in perfectly with the still-forming punk sound, and one can easily argue that no other band straddled the line between the two sounds as perfectly as one finds on Go Girl Crazy!

Adding what is without question the ideal finishing touch to the bands' sound, there has never been another vocalist from any point in history quite like "Handsome" Dick Manitoba.  It is his distinctive ability to bring a gruff growl that is on par with any punk singer, while at the same time working the entire vocal scale as a singer that makes him so impressive, and the shared parts with Shernoff play equally as great.  The amount of swagger and testosterone that comes forth in the vocals is second to none, and the fact that they are able to do so without having to be overly loud or fast is again a testament to the control they have of the mood of their music.  There are even moments within the songs found on Go Girl Crazy! where one cannot help but compare the vocals to those found on The Stooges', "Gimme Danger," and the way in which the vocals lock in with the music matches this comparison quite well, even if they are a big sarcastic in this instance.  However, while the vocals are nothing short of fantastic, it is within the lyrics of these songs where the true personality of The Dictators is able to shine.  There is a sense of "rock grandeur" within the words, and yet it is also clear that the band is poking fun at their own, turning many of the tracks into some of the finest musical satires in all of music history.  Though some may see these songs as a "quest" for rock stardom, the fact that they can just as easily be read as one of excess and arrogance shows the almost hidden brilliance that made The Dictators so fantastic.

Bringing all of these elements together, the fact remains that Go Girl Crazy! is without question one of the most catchy and truly irresistible records ever recorded.  Regardless of ones musical preference, there is a draw to every song on the album that cannot be ignored, and it may live within the fact that one can truly feel the level of "fun" that the band had whilst recording the this release.  Whether it is the heavily sarcastic, yet clearly accurate opening tirade from Manitoba, pushing it to the line, "...this is just a hobby for me," or the vivid images of packed arenas, on many levels, Go Girl Crazy! is able to convey rock and roll stardom in a manner unlike any other album in history.  Yet it is also the fact that the music is powerful and captivating, and after hearing the album only once, one is left to wonder how such arrangements did not garner regular radio airplay at some point over the past decades.  In almost every facet, Go Girl Crazy! rings of the so-called "classic rock" sound, and aside from some of the lyrics, one would be hard pressed to separate these songs from many others that were released around the same time.  Yet it is this exact fact that enables The Dictators to be so distinctive when compared to their peers, and it is the way in which they blended the punk attitude into the heavy metal sound that remains such a uniquely exciting experience.  Though there were certainly a number of absolutely phenomenal bands from the era, few were even remotely equal to the talent and presence of The Dictators, and one can quickly understand their unique genius all across their extraordinary 1975 debut, Go Girl Crazy!

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