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Punk forefathers the Dictators refuse to age -- or do anything -- gracefully

Wednesday, May 1 2002
Punk bands don't usually age gracefully. Listening to crusties in their piss-taking prime is one thing, but paying to see those same dudes make pitiful attempts at cash-grabbing 20 years later can get fucking depressing. Surprisingly, the Dictators are still making great music, nearly three decades after first getting together.

The New York proto-punk act initially formed in 1974, the same year as the Ramones. Fronted by one-time roadie and cook Handsome Dick Manitoba, the band quickly drew a loyal following, as much for its singer's confrontational style as its music. Manitoba liked a little action when he was under the spotlight, whether that meant throwing White Castle burgers at his audience, getting into a smackdown with legendary rock critic Lester Bangs, or tussling with well-known transvestite performer Wayne County. The Dictators' songs were just as rowdy as Manitoba's antics, offering odes to hot cars, girls who sucked dick, and ass-wiping. As lowbrow as it gets, the band made fun of everything, including itself.

The Dictators recorded three studio LPs, including the classic The Dictators Go Girl Crazy, before breaking up in 1978. As punk bands are wont to do, the group resurfaced several times, touring in 1991 and recording an album last year called D.F.F.D. The new effort -- which stands for "Dictators Forever Forever Dictators," a play on a Hell's Angels slogan -- shows the act's principal songwriter, Andy Shernoff, in top form. Between the nostalgic riposte "Who Will Save Rock and Roll?" and the anti-gentrification rant "Avenue A," Shernoff proves that the bygone days aren't that far gone after all. On "Burn, Baby, Burn," Shernoff feeds Manitoba lines like "I crave the flesh of the sacred cow, charred and dripping fat," stoking the flames of the band's un-PC fire and burger cravings. Shernoff doesn't just take down tree-hugging vegetarians, though; he also spears greed and corruption with signature blatancy, declaring that "Pussy and Money" make the world go 'round. Twenty-eight years after first blurring the boundaries of bad taste and good rock, the Dictators refuse to age -- or do anything -- gracefully, which is all the more reason to love them.

About The Author

Jennifer Maerz


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