Monday, July 21, 2008

DEAD BOYS - We Have Come For Your Children LP (1978/Sire)
...not that I'm reviewing an original LP copy here. No siree, got me a freebie of the brand new reissue CD on the Noble Rot label. First time I ever heard the album in question, too. I mean, you know the story, right? New York punkers in the late '70s had a bad case of DSAS (Difficult Second Album Syndrome), and the Dead Boys were no exception. File 'em right next to the Dictators, Suicide, Television and Richard Hell. Of course, over time these sophomore efforts have been reassessed, and the passing of said time has allowed us to be a little more generous than the critics were in the day (for the record, I like the second albums by all of those people), and no band was more savaged by the critics than the Dead Boys. After all, they were just a bunch of Midwest lunkheads/junkies/boozehounds/deadbeats/glam-flunkies who hitched a ride on the punk-rock gravy train, right? Seen the photo of proto-Dead Boys, Frankenstein, from '76 or so? Long hair, platform boots, those guys were a joke, right? Well, you may be as surprised as anyone to learn this, but when I was 15 years old, I thought the Dead Boys were the dog's bollocks. You heard me right. Heard "Sonic Reducer" on the radio (played by the other Dave Laing on 3RRR) and decided I'd better take the leap. Purchased their Night Of The Living Dead Boys LP and nearly wore the grooves out. I haven't played that disc for over 10 years - haven't pulled it out to even look at it, in fact - but so ingrained in my brain it be, that I'll take a punt w/out any research and say that it was a reunion LP the band recorded on Halloween, 1981. If I'm wrong, let me know and I'll spank my memory. The record in question had red-hot live versions of the best tracks from their two late-'70s studio albums, which I guess makes it all the more remarkable that it's taken me over 20 years to belatedly hear their second studio effort, considering how much I liked all of the material from that record.

But anyways... I didn't get hooked on a terminal Dead Boys wave and we all move onto different things. Here it is now, out in shiny, digital form... and the hanging judge has arrived. What do you think I'm going to say? I'm not prone to wasting this blog writing about records you shouldn't bother listening to, so on that note I'll say that I really like We Have Come For Your Children a lot. A whole lot. Possibly more than Young, Loud and Snotty. Just possibly...

There is what is great about this album, and there is what is not. The greatness all lies in the songs; at least half of the ten songs are fantastic. There's my absolute fave DBs track, "I Won't Look Back", a total power-pop rocker which is like early-'70s AM pop beefed up for the '77 crowd with a killer chorus; the punkified "(I Don't Wanna Be No) Catholic Boy", w/ its genius-like lyrics, "I don't wanna be no Catholic boy, I wanna beat my meat right on the street..."; "Flame Thrower Love", with its tight-assed drum rolls and Zep-like guitar heroics; the grinding "Son Of Sam"; and the somewhat legendary "Ain't It Fun", their "ballad" later covered by hair-rock superstars, Guns 'n' Roses (which the DBs stole from their old band, Rocket From The Tombs). The rest I'm giving a B+. The Dead Boys were always way more rock 'n' roll than many of their '77 brethren, more like a high-energy '70s heavy metal act than a genuine safety-pinned punker outfit, so if you're not into the Dictators and their kinda he-man rock-animal schtick, then this ain't gonna be up your alley, and that's your loss. The appalling soft-focus cover photo goes to show how badly the band had their balls in a vice c/o one Seymour Stein, who wanted them to go New Wave (though it looks more REO Speedwagon to me!), and the fact that they managed to make a second album which "rocked" at all is testament to the fact that the men - and let's call them "Men" - who made up the band knew a lot more about what made rock "rock" than many of their contemporaries.

Which now brings me to what is not great about the album: the production. Whilst not nearly as bad as I'd been lead to believe all these years, it's also nothing to brag about. Produced by none other than Mountain's Felix Pappalardi(!), who, according to the liner notes, had no idea what to do w/ the band, the sound is crisp and punchy, and the rhythm section sounds tight as hell and ready to knock down walls, though the guitars are mixed way down, giving it a fairly sterile sound in places, and frustratingly not delivering the punch in songs when they warrant it. I can't figure it: those early Mountain albums rock, and yet the guy couldn't turn a few knobs to the right to make the guitars crunch a little heavier? The guy either had his balls in a vice as well, or he was just plain incompetent.

Better than the debut? Hmmm... I'm not going to enter that debate. Best leave that to the self-professed experts. I like 'em both, with all their faults. Like the liner notes say: a band as fucked up as the Dead Boys weren't ever destined to stick around for a long time; they crashed and burned pretty quick, but did it w/ more style than many of their contemporaries. However, those who were as cautious as I regarding the dreaded and widely loathed second album by the Dead Boys may just be as surprised as I was when they actually hear the thing. Not bad, not bad 't'all...

5 comments:

Michael said...

FRANKENSTEIN were no joke. No: dudes with long hair tittering on platforms in Cleveland in '76 musta been ALL OUT WAR. Gotta give em credit.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Dave, you effin' nailed it again!
I mean, I know that "Young, loud..." is the obvious classic Punk Rock album, but the DB's 2nd LP ain't no downer, by any means; aside for the songs you mention, which I adore (specially "Flame Thrower" and "Ain't no Fun"), the three chord opener "3rd Generation nation" and the bluesy/ New York Dollsy rockers "Big City" and "Dead and Alive" are top notch songs as well.
I might slightly prefer the debut, though, because it contains my favorite Dead Boys track (and one of the best Punk rock songs ever, IMHO), which isn't the obvious choice, "Sonic Reducer", but the proto-Germs, vicious, metallic-riffed Punker "Ain't nothing to Do".

By the way, I followed some of Stiv Bators, post DBs career, and became seriously disappointed by the Lords of New Church (absolutely outdated 80's New wave), and pretty positively impressed with the Stiv Bators solo album "Disconnected", which is basically a Nuggets-influenced Power Pop album, albeit a pretty good one.

Dave said...

Yeah, well, I was being cheeky about it. Having said that, by many people's standards, long hair and platform boots was a hopelessly passe look by '76, though that didn't sop Kiss from making a million bucks from it.

Dave said...

Dang! Can't believe I forgot to mention "3rd Generation Nation"! Yep, that is a GREAT song. Folks have raved to me about that first solo Stiv record before and I noticed there's a copy at work sitting on a shelf. Well, I know what I'll be listening to today. I, too, heard a bit of Lords of the New Curch back in the '80s and thought it blew.

kami said...

flame thrower love was by far the best song - it kicked serious arse... pity about the production... why hasnt someone found the raw tapes of that album?? then we might get a taste of what it was supposed to be like. deadboys are my favorite punk band - i discovered em about the same time you did i reckon (well i was 15) and i never looked back... still remember buying the first album from Coles of all places :) and i do like a bit of the new church stuff though it doesnt age well... fuck it, there'll never be another band like em. have you checked out the dvd - live primo era stuff at cbgb's. makes todays kids look like the wimps they are!