Young Loud and Snotty (Sire ’77) Rating: A-
Spawned from the legendary Cleveland punk scene, the seeds of The Dead Boys started with a legendary "forgotten" band called Rocket From The Tombs. Upon splitting up, Peter Laughner (perhaps most famous for being Lester Bangs' drug buddy) and David Thomas formed the even more legendary Pere Ubu, while guitarist Gene O'Connor (Cheetah Chrome) and drummer Johnny Madansky (Johnny Blitz) formed Frankenstein, which soon morphed into The Dead Boys ("it's alive!"). The band's first album is almost perfectly titled, though perhaps this should’ve been called Young Loud Stupid and Snotty. That's not really an insult, merely an observation that these guys pen lyrics that would make Kiss blush (for example, one song is called “Caught With The Meat In Your Mouth”). Of course, Kiss rarely make me laugh out loud like these guys, whose misogynist ("girl I don't really want to dance, girl I just wanna get in your pants"), macho ("gonna beat up the next hippie I see, maybe I'll be beatin' up you") lyrics are obviously at least somewhat tongue in cheek, and I'd argue that Kiss never came up with a studio side to match the fantastic fist side here. "Sonic Reducer" is a classic garage/punk stomper that absolutely roars out of the gate, replete with attitude-soaked lyrics like "I don't need anyone, don't need no mom and dad, don't need no pretty face, don't need no human race, I got some news for you, don't even need you too!" Things slow down somewhat on "All This And More," an energetic sing along ("I want to be a Dead Boy") that makes me want to be a Dead Boy, while "What Love Is" is an ultra-intense shout along with a great surge. Surprisingly, "Not Anymore" is a moody, almost-thoughtful ballad that's still great, while "Ain't Nothin' To Do," which also roars along and is equal parts punk and metal (those genres in general having more in common than most punk-loving critics are loathe to admit), is another all-time classic of its (admittedly obnoxious) type. Alas, the rest of the album simply isn't as memorable, and the band gets excessively, cartoonishly sexist on “Caught With The Meat In Your Mouth” and "I Need Lunch." Fortunately, the band's enthusiasm for the project never wanes, and Chrome/Jimmy Zero's raw guitars somewhat make up for the sub par songwriting towards the end of the album, while singer Stiv Bators never stops spitting out his stupid lyrics for all he's worth (p.s. now's as good a time as any to mention a major Stooges/MC5/Detroit influence). Almost poppy, "Hey Little Girl" is a cool Syndicate Of Sound (likely via Nuggets) cover with hooky guitar parts, but "Down In Flames" seems redundant, and "Not Anymore/Ain't Nothin' to Do," a reprise of two earlier songs that attempts to pad out a still-brief 36-minute album, IS redundant (a 9-song, 26-minute album would've been a better idea). Still, there's no denying that on Young Loud and Snotty The Dead Boys came up with half a great album (this would’ve been an amazing EP), though even the best stuff here will only appeal to a certain demographic (i.e. young, loud, stupid, snotty, and male).
We Have Come For Your Children (Sire ’78) Rating: B
Produced by former Cream knob-twiddler Felix Pappalardi (also an ex-member of Mountain), We Have Come For Your Children has a cleaner, poppier sound than its predecessor. Think of the transition from Bleach to Nevermind, only without the grand leap in songwriting, and what you have here is a somewhat disappointing but still recommendable second effort. Personally, I miss the grimy roar of the debut, which had catchier songs to boot. Actually, songs such as “I Won’t Look Back” (anthemic), “Tell Me” (a r&b-based Stones cover), and “Calling On You” (propulsive pop) are all quite catchy, while “(I Don’t Wanna Be No) Catholic Boy” and “Big City” have a Ramones-y simplicity that belies the band’s attempts to diversify elsewhere. Bators sounds almost restrained on “3rd Generation Nation,” but the guitars careen about in the background instead of punching you in the gut, and though the Alice Cooper-ish “Son Of Sam” has an agreeably moody air of menace, I’m against glorifying loathsome cretins of his ilk. The album’s most famous song, “Ain’t It Fun,” was actually written by Peter Laughner and was later covered by Guns ‘n Roses. A druggy ballad with an intense grind, the song’s prescient lyrics (“ain’t it fun when you’re gonna die young”) are both appropriate and poignant (Laughner died young from a drug overdose), enough so to make me forget the formulaic song (“Dead and Alive”) that preceded it. That’s the only serious misfire on the album, which is an admirable attempt by all involved to stretch out a bit. Still, something’s missing here, as aside from “Ain’t It Fun” We Have Come For Your Children lacks the overall excitement of Young Loud and Snotty. In short, The Dead Boys sound just a little too domesticated here, and though fans of the debut would be wise to pick up this one as well, there’s no doubt to which album my allegiance lies. Alas, this would be the last Dead Boys album, a few posthumous live releases aside. On a grim final note, Bators' life came to an unfortunate end when he was hit by a car in 1990. Actually, he walked away from the accident but later died in his sleep due to the injuries he sustained; Bators' other notable band was Lords Of The New Church.