Faster…Louder. The Dictators’ Best 1975-2001 - The Dictators (Raven)
It’s such an obvious idea it’s a wonder somebody didn’t do it years ago. In the ranks of proto-punk/high-energy rock and roll, New York City’s Dictators stand tall (pun intended) so why wouldn’t you compile 20 of their most lethal weapons on one convenient (Australia only) disc?
The Dictators formed under the auspices of Andy (Adny) Shernoff, zine publisher and budding song-writer from Queens, NYC. They made an event of featuring their roadie, Richard Blum, as guest vocalist. That party piece parlayed into Blum becoming Handsome Dick Manitoba, their Secret Weapon and full-time singer. Mix Shernoff’s clever songs about cars, girls, being a TV watching, couch-dwelling slacker and eating junk food with Manitoba’s brash, wrestling-inspired schtick and you have a recipe for something that was years ahead of its time. Three immensely great studio albums, a couple of live ones and a new (2001) LP by the reconstituted and most enduring version of the band are evidence of their greatness.
The Dictators were simply too punk for the mainstream and too metal for the punks. They slipped into the too hard basket for the art school end of the CBGB crowd and had long hair when the Brits were spiking theirs. They had a shot at arena rock before stripping it back for the “Bloodbrothers” album. They were perpetually the right men in the wrong place.
You get 20 tracks on this collection and none of them are less than killer. Six from “The Dictators Go Girl Crazy!”, four from “Manifest Destiny”, five from “Bloodbrothers” and the balance from “DFFD”. Raven has done a nice job of the mastering and Ian McFarlane’s liners do justice to the story. (We’ve also featured his interview with Andy as an article at the Bar.) There aren’t any surprises (if you want the demo’s you need the Norton collection "Every Day Is Saturday" Shernoff put together or you can stumble over a bootleg) but there’s a simple pleasure in hearing these tracks sequenced, one after another.
“DFFD” (“Dictators Forever, Forever Dictators”) was a rare beast - a reunion album that didn’t suck - and wisely took the path of not trying to out-do the band’s past. That’s reflected in the tracks here and it’s especially notable that two of them, the anthem-like “Who Will Save Rock and Roll” and powerhouse mission statement “I Am Right!”, are the best representations of the band from that era.
It’s a tragedy all-round that Shernoff and Manitoba no longer see eye-to-eye over the band continuing as a live unit. HDM now fronts an Andy-less version, trading for legal reasons under the name “Dictators NYC”, who by all accounts pack the same live punch as the old outfit, while Shernoff gigs solo and continues to write clever songs. Put all that stuff to one side and revel in this collection.