Up until a few months ago this would not have got anywhere near my Top 20 Albums. It really wouldn’t have. There’s a good reason for this – it’s because I had not really listened to it – properly.
In a typical pub conversation I was arguing that The Damned were a far better band than the Dead Boys. To an extent, I still stand by this. The Damned had a wider career span, yes you can forget everything after Strawberries, but they are a great band for many reasons.
Pushed to identify the best Damned album i’d have to go with Damned Damned Damned closely followed by Machine Gun Etiquette. It was argued that The Dead Boys debut wipes the floor with the Damned albums I was backing. I disagreed.
Then in a post pub need for more beers a bunch of us went back to a mates house and they stuck on Young, Loud & Snotty. Difficult to admit, but I was wrong. The Dead Boys first album does stand aloft of The Damned albums I was rambling on about.
For a start the album kicks off in near unbelievable style with Sonic Reducer (Thomas / Chrome). One of the best Punk Rock tracks ever laid down. That’s Punk and Rock. It works on many levels. It has that intro that straight away makes your ears prick right up.
It’s a sample The Beastie Boys would use on An Open Letter To NYC in 2004. The Beasties track is a New York love-in that aims to reconcile without preaching post 9/11. The fact the Beasties use this track nods to appreciate that even though the Dead Boys aren’t from New York – the spirit of that riff is as Punk / New York as you can get.
Back to Sonic Reducer. When Stiv Bators vocal comes in fast on the heels of that killer riff / intro, what it offers immediately is Attitude, by the sack full. You can feel the authenticity. The kind of sound and delivery that screams this is what we do – nothing else.
All This And More (Bators / Chrome / Zero) is set a tough act to follow (Sonic Reducer). It’s not as good, but it again rattles along with screaming authenticity. A great track.
What Love Is (Bators / Chrome / Zero) reeks of alleyway rock. It’s urgent and the band sound like a great unit.
Not Anymore (Bators / Chrome / Zero) is where I began to agree the band were better than The Damned. Or at least that The Damned have not got many (any?) songs that can stand up to this standard. It’s a freakin’ great track. For a start, it’s fairly slow. The intro is burning, powerful. Stiv Bators vocal paints the image of a homeless man. Down and Out but very defiant. It’s glorious. A restrained guitar adds to the desolation. Mentally you get the vision that the track is real, not made up, not just a song. Bators near cries “Give Me A Dollar For A Cup-A-Soup” for such a dumb line on paper – it’s delivery is very emotionally laid down. The guiltar remains restrained but when it lets loose short solos it ripe the track apart. Fantastic.
Ain’t Nothing To Do (Bators / Chrome / Zero) contines in fine style. With the benefit of the first Ramones album already out there the Dead Boys get darker than The Ramones ventured. “Gonna Beat Up The Next Hippy I See – Then Maybe Beat Up You” the track sounds like a band that truly don’t give a fuck, about anything. Bators affirms his classic frontman status with a needless – but outstandingly effective “tch, tch, tch, tch” (you need to hear this bit). The the guitar again rips the track to shreds with a blistering break.
Caught With The Meat In Your Mouth (Bators / Chrome / Zero) is a tad more rock and roll. It ables along. In fairness it’s just a great album track.
Hey Little Girl (Gonzales / Baskin) sees the album venture in an odd dierction. It’s a live track and a cover. A brave move, but then again you’ve already got the impression the band do not play to any rule book. Oddly it sounds in places like Husker Du – ok – Husker Du sounded like this.
I Need Lunch (Bators / Chrome / Zero) is the track that made me realise I had to admit defeat in my pub conversation. The power chord alone is up their with the very best ever. Topping the music is Stiv Bators frankly outstanding vocal. Never has a song delivered so much attitude. It’s tangible. You can feel it. Never has a vocal carried so much defiance, venom and self belief. The most messed up of love songs (hate songs?). When Bators delivers the line “go find yourself a factory man” the attitude pours from the speakers. What I cannot get across here with written words is they way the vocal rises and dips and pours out untamed aggression in a way that just forges its own art. The final line of “Feed Me” is the best example of defiance ever laid down.
High Tension Wire (Bators / Chrome / Zero) builds to crashing crescendo. As it ambles along it spews many instances of what has made the album so great.
Down In Flames (Bators / Chrome / Zero) has it all too. Screeching guitar. Chaotic but controlled riffs. Bators chanting “Dead Boys”. They sound like a gang, not a band. The music almost summoning its own siren. The defiant scream of “Down In Flames” looks like the only way the band can go down.
The album closes with a Not Anymore / Ain’t Nothing To Do as a medley. Essentially reprises. The guitar even manages to sound like early Iron Maiden – ok – Maiden sounded like this.
From Zero to Hero this is an album I should have listened to properly years ago. If your not up to speed with it – check it out…