Monday, December 22, 2008

The Dictators

by Andy Schwartz

Twenty-eight years after their debut album Go Girl Crazy! (with its gleeful confession that "We knocked 'em dead in Dallas/They didn't know we were Jews!") and twenty-two years after their initial breakup, the Dictators made the Number One record of 2001.

Correction: The Number One record of 2001 in my mind.

Because the first time I played this Norton seven-incher and every single time thereafter (i.e. a great many times -- just ask my wife), "Who Will Save Rock & Roll" has never failed to deliver the hair-raising, flag-waving, Charge-of-the-Rock-Brigade thrill of real-life Number One records from "Hound Dog" and "La Bamba" to "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit." In this 2:59 epic, 'Taters tunesmith Andy "Adny" Shernoff simultaneously mourns the r&r past ("I saw the Stooges, covered with bruises," "Murray the K is not here today," etc.) and yanks it back to joyous, vivid life. His proudly, hilariously retrograde message is embodied by one of Handsome Dick Manitoba's most tuneful and expressive vocals on wax, the rolling thunder of drummer J.P. Patterson, and a Ross The Boss guitar solo that trash-compacts entire eras of electric axe heroism into two choruses.

The follow-up single, "Down on Avenue A" (Norton, 2001), wasn't quite the same maximum thrill machine. With a tip o' the hat to Dictators guitarist Scott "Top Ten" Kempner, think of it as a Top Ten entry rather than an undeniable Number One. On this minor-key Shernoff song, the mood shifts from defiance to poignance as the narrative rides successive waves of East Village counter-culture until crashing, finally, upon the unforgiving rocks of gentrification: "Yeah, it's all over when you see a Range Rover/And to my bodega, I say hasta luega/It's not what you do, it's what you say/And it's not who you know, it's who you pay/Down on Avenue A..."

Adny, mein lantzman, you're a genius.
Dictators Forever -- Forever Dictators!


"Who Will Save Rock & Roll" mp3
by The Dictators, 2001.
available on D.F.F.D.

"Down on Avenue A" mp3
by The Dictators, 2001.
available on D.F.F.D.


Anonymous said...

Great post Andy!

The Hound said...

Norton Record recently issued the pre-Go Girl Crazy demos along w/some other rare stuff as Every Day Is Saturday, the vinyl has more tracks.
I think Fireman's Friend and Backseat Boogie are among their best ever (both from the first demo).

Anonymous said...

Just doesn't measure up to their peers