Cleveland in the middle ‘70s. Grey skies punctuated by sweltering factory furnaces, casting an orange glow and a sulfur stink, it was a Rust Belt dead-end town where frustration bristled like an electric wire under water – and the Dead Boys buzzed as if they’d picked up that wire and were gonna hang on for all the short-circuiting, energy scrambling glory.
They were – to put it bluntly – scary. In Northeastern Ohio, where Chrissie Hynde had escaped to London, Stiff was about to sign Rachel Sweet and Devo rode high concept concepts to local acclaim, Rocket From The Tombs shattered into art provocateurs Pere Ubu and violent nihilists the Dead Boys, whose rage against the machine was palpable.
Their anger was palpable. They incited fights, sounded like silverware spun in a high impact blender, didn’t give a fuck – and took a ferocious whelp at power pop forms. Sneering, leering, fuming, Young, Loud & Snotty seemed almost tame compared to the live shows where Cheetah Chrome’s guitar would slice right into you, Johnny Blitz’s drums would attempt to topple you and Stiv Bators frantic howl and crowd-baiting presence would yield maximum mayhem.
Even helmed by Genya Ravan, a vet hellbent to tear down rock’s bloat and hubris, the Dead Boys were almost too much to contain. “Sonic Reducer” remains one of punk’s first great singles: buzzing, braying, a karate heel to the knee pumping like too much meth and a cop on your heels.
In a place where the city was bankrupt, Lake Erie was dead, the Cuyahoga River was burning and its nickname – inspired by protests and Mob violence – was “Bomb City USA,” the ethnic working class kids captured the zeitgeist, doused it with cheap gasoline and lit the match. Whether the buzzy lumbering “All This and More,” the rush and fury of “Caught with the Meat in Your Mouth,” or the clattering tumble of “Down in Flames,” it was apparent anarchism was their Romper Room, and the worst was yet to come.
Caught in a creative clash with Sire Records, the pressure to be palatable got in the way. As terrifying as YLS was, the band felt it was thing, demos rather than masters. The rancor and dischord was as palpable offstage as on. With everything coming down, they band made a confused We’ve Come for Your Children, then let go. They left a recorded legacy that never matched their hoist, shout, vigor, seethe – until now.
Young Loud & Snottier proves that punks don’t just flame out, but distill into an even more formidable proposition. With Cheetah Chrome pulling the band back together, it is as yowling as ever; better played, harder hit and ready to thrown down.
To understand how beat down a city could be, and what that does to its citizens on the verge, this is the place. The wrath that fueled the band once is still there. Sometimes when you’re born to rage, it’s really all you can do.