Sunday, October 9, 2011

Jeff Dahl- Ultra Under (Triple X, 1991)


Thirty-nine cents! It's tough finding a goddamn Snickers bar for less than that amount of lint-covered coins, but spotting arguably Dahl's best album on tape in Camelot Music's cheapo bins inside Virginia Beach's Lynnhaven Mall circa 1995 surely satisfied (albeit temporarily) my ears' hunger for fresh sounds. Judging by the thick nest of frizz on the cover (Mark Bolan with a perm from Hell's hairdresser?), the sleeveless Stooges tee, a dedication to Stiv Bators and song titles like "Junkies Deserve To Die" and "Mick & Keith Killed Brian," I was readily eager for Ultra Under to acquaint itself with the deck of my Magnavox boombox. After the fourth or fifth complete rotation of Dahl's promising platter, I made the following mental declaration: "Man, this dude's like Iggy Pop and Johnny Thunders rolled into one human being!" Indeed, Dahl's shoveling The Stooges' "Dirt" was so spot-on, my New Jersey-based friend (who'd acquire Ultra Under on CD within a week after wearing out the dubbed copy) thought it was Mr. Iguana himself. Said bud also gave high marks to the take of The Runaways' "Cherry Bomb," for it served as a template for Dahl's oft-girly vocalisms. Remember The Sweet's version of "Reflections"? Same shit, different era. It was the opening whine ("Touchy, Touchy Baby") that initially impressed us the most, however. Personally, I dig lots of '80s hair bands (as recipients of my grit comps would confirm), but this wild child sipped its glam formula with punk rather than metal. Because Dahl spat out lines in the same way a toddler extracts Cheerios ("So many questions got you on the spot/You don't bother to answer/Just give it up/Plain as day, but she can't see/Just shrug your shoulders/Ah, c'est la vie"), we sang along to Ultra Under in my amigo's rental car during his return to Tidewater.

Mr. New Jersey is no longer a friend of mine (100% his fault, but whatever...), but Jeff Dahl can still be counted upon whenever a rock 'n' roll jolt is necessary to power bleak days and nights. Recounting the true story of a horrible night amidst the '70s punk scene in Los Angeles, "Elks Lodge Riot" puts you in the middle of the chaos ("Flying vultures overhead/Tracking my every move/Sirens running thru the streets/Sets such a dangerous mood"). An absolutely stinging guitar riff from Chemical People's Jaime Pina (shades of Cheetah Chrome) heightens the tension. Dunno what kind of household Dahl grew up in, but "God Don't Care" is an answer-back redolent of many an artist a la Jim Carroll and Patti Smith ("Take it any way you want/It ain't blasphemy/If you sell your soul, baby, you ain't free/Put all you've got in the collection plate/Yeah, you can buy salvation if it ain't too late"). "Somebody" and "Pretty Blonde Hair" (another Pina lead!) are apt tributes to Stiv, as both throw flames with the white-hot intensity of the cookers on We Have Come For Your Children (the BETTER of the two Dead Boys albums!). Sparse piano and voice could be the stuff of your mom's favorite Jeff Dahl composition ("Just Amazin'"), though the tale of succumbing to addiction keeps it out of the recital realm. Elton's preferred instrument is also utilized on "Chemical Eyeballs," which blinks with a mid-tempo groove reminiscent of primo Bowie and Mott The Hoople.

Thank you for letting me share my thoughts. All 39 pennies' worth.

-Gunther 8544


7 comments:

Shawn Abnoxious said...

Verily powerful showing Gunny. Hats off to the cheap bin..

Rutledge said...

I am now deep in thought in regards to the relative merits of the two proper Dead Boys LPs. If we're talking PRODUCTION, it's hard to refute your contention that WHCfYC is the superior product. It's not just a botched production - it's at the WRONG SPEED! If I were the band and heard what Genya Raven did to my music, I would have come for HER children! But if we're talking SONGS, in spite of the production fiasco, I cannot in good conscience relagate YOUNG, LOUD & SNOTTY to 2nd-best. Just as a botched recording of RAW POWER triumphed in the end because the songs and the playing COULD NOT BE DENIED, similarly the first Dead Boys album conquers any and all attempts to dull its sonic blade. It cuts deep. That said, the "corrected" reissue, YOUNGER, LOUDER, and SNOTTIER is a must-own for anyone who likes good music. As much as I like, say, "Third Generation Nation", it's no "Caught with the Meat in Your Mouth".

gunther said...

While both DB albums are great and essential, I prefer WHCFYC slightly over the debut. To me, the second LP bridges the gap between snotty Stiv and the solo recordings. Also, I think Jeff Dahl's M.O. owes a bit more to ...Children than YL&S, his "Sonic Reducer" cover not withstanding. The likes of "Third Generation Nation" and "Flamethrower Love" would've turned up in Dahl's songbook, even if they hadn't been penned by Stiv initially. I'll seek out Younger, Louder And Snottier at some point.

Rutledge said...

Astute point - WHCfYC is indeed a transition into the direction of solo Stiv. But for me, when I listen to the Dead Boys, I crave straight-up raging rock n' roll. At the end of the day, both albums rule the school!

gunther said...

Dunno why both albums weren't reissued on a single CD a la 20/20's first two. I paid almost $40 for WHCFYC on eBay. Mr. New Jersey helped me win the auction.

Rutledge said...

I don't think I've ever paid $40 for an LP. That's some serious scratch! Damn shame that a great album like that has remained out of print for so long. I got my copy when it was reissued on vinyl sometime in the late '90s or early 2000s.

gunther said...

I recall seeing $59.99 price tags on Traveling Wilburys CDs when they were OOP. Luckily, I found one for a buck at Cash Converters during that time. A $58.99 savings!