Sunday, March 18, 2018

Just One Song - Dead Boys

Dead Boys
Ain't Nothin' to Do
Young, Loud and Snotty (1978)

If you grew up in certain part of the United States in a certain era and you were a music fan, you were probably acquainted with the now defunct department store chain known as Korvettes. The stores were renowned for their record departments, so much that they were profiled in a 1964 issue of Billboard magazine, which marveled at their $20 million in record sales annually.

It was mighty convenient for a young music fan who didn't drive to be able to tag along while Mom shopped for sheets and socks and whatnot. I made a number of discoveries here. Rush's first live album and the Ramones Leave Home are two that come to mind. I had no idea who the Ramones were, but four glowering chaps in tattered denim and leather could only be a good thing - and so it was.

Ditto for those five glowering fellows who graced the cover of "the damned and demonic" Dead Boys first album - Young, Loud and Snotty. Which was a damned fine piece of work and which was followed in short order by We Have Come For Your Children (1978), an only marginally less fine piece of work. That was it for the Dead Boys and that's as it should be. Unless you count the handful of dubious live albums that have been released over these many decades, or the original mixes of the two studio albums, or Still Snotty: Young, Loud and Snotty at 40 (2017), which found two original band members convening with a bunch of youngsters to re-record the entire first album. Sigh.

So back to Young, Loud and Snotty. It's a great album - one of the greatest punk albums, if I do say so myself. If I ever run across those rough mixes I'll take a listen. As for the "new" version, I fail to see what the point is and don't have much interest in hearing it, except for what you might call morbid curiosity. Maybe the rough mixes improved on the finished, sort of polished version and maybe there's even a way that the "new" version improved on the original but I'm at a loss to figure out how that could be.

There aren't really any duds in this bunch but there are a few tracks that stand out. Sonic Reducer kicks things off in a fine way and has probably become the band's best known song and High Tension Wire and Down in Flames wrap things up and leave the listener wanting more.

But my pick for the best ever Dead Boys tune is Ain't Nothin' to Do, which closed out side one of the original vinyl release. It comes and goes in just over two minutes - few of these songs exceed the three-minute mark - and it takes everything the Dead Boys did elsewhere to higher heights, bludgeoning the listener with an intense wall of sound and featuring vocals by the late Stiv Bators that are at peak snarlishness. Sonic Reducer is often pointed to as a punk anthem - whatever the hell that is - but this one probably better fits whatever weirdo criteria we're using to judge these punk anthems nowadays.

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