Vinyl Vlog 630

Vinyl Vlog 630

Monday, 25 December 2023
The Dwarves – Concept Album – “We Will Dare”

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into The Dwarves’ Concept Album LP. To say that The Dwarves have been around and weathered a lot of pop cultural storms is an understatement. Since forming in Chicago in the mid-Eighties, The Dwarves have reinvented the concept of the revolving door; they’ve gone through band members (dozens of them – but guitarist Pete “HeWhoCannotBeNamed” Vietnamecheque and singer Paul “Blag Dahlia” Cafaro are the group’s core members), record labels (at least five) and bases of operations (Chicago first – but last reports indicated that the band was calling San Francisco home) at roughly the same rate that most bands change their guitar strings but, every time they change, the band manages to defy the odds against them and reappear better than they were before. That tradition proves to be true again with Concept Album – The Dwarves’ fifteenth studio album.

After a token foul-mouthed phone message opens the album, listeners may be genuinely shocked at how spry and genuinely energetic The Dwarves sound as “Feeling Great” open Concept Album. There, the band just smashes listeners over the head with a pop punk caprice that has only (barely) been hinted at on previous releases; Blag Dahlia pushes his voice hard through his nose to make it sound lean and snotty, and that makes lines like “I guess I got news/Regrets I had me a few/ Now here’s a dog to compare to/ Cats who beware and pussies singin’ the blues” sound simultaneously like a series of noxious come-ons and kiss-offs which are guaranteed to hook all the young punks within earshot. The song gets even better too as – with an eye very obviously on brevity and impact, first – the guitars saw through to make the greatest impact while everything else about the song focuses on getting in through and done and leave heads spinning, and the gamble works; after just three minutes (the total runtime between the album’s first two cuts), listeners will be hooked and ready to go wherever the band might take them.

As solid an introduction as “Feeling Great” is, “Voodoo” augments the running of Concept Album‘s A-side dramatically when it shifts gears and sears eardrums with a hardcore blast that lasts less than a minute and a half followed by the best Motörhead vamp that Lemmy didn’t write entitled “Terrorist Of Love.” There, The Dwarves beautifully present their hangman’s sense of humor (lines like, “Got something to get off my chest/ Strapping on my suicide vest/ I finally found a reason to fly Southwest” are the mix of “dark” and “hilarious” that stodgy critics would call “inappropriate,” and will make those with an attitude problem smirk, defiantly). It is important to point out that Concept Album‘s A-side isn’t without its filler (cuts like “Ages Ago” and the ear-bleeding “Kill Or Be Killed” are self-indulgent but, happily, they’re also brief), but the upside is that, even when the band hits a bum note, listeners don’t have to wait long for the mood to change because The Dwarves truly embrace the value of brevity throughout the side and make it so that, when the side ends after “Roxette” (which uses keyboards to sort of test the waters of New Wave), listeners will rush to their turntables to see what the album’s B-side has in store for them.

…And, as good as the A-side of Concept Album is, the B-side really pulls out all the stops to ensure that no listener will be able to forget it. As soon as stylus lands on the B-, it begins by building with a scream to open “You Lose, We Win,” and the band is off and running from there. “You Lose, We Win” is truly relentless from the top as it touches the punk roots of bands like Anti-Flag (yes, this critic is aware how perfectly unfashionable that comparison is, these days, but the quality of the band is in no way connected with the actions of its singer – all of which is a discussion which doesn’t focus on The Dwarves) and Offspring, but The Dwarves really set themselves up as a brand apart as lyrics like “Attention! Bow down to our noise/ Detention – for all you dirty girls and boys/ Invention – the original scumfuck poise/ Intention – we’ve come here to destroy” see The Dwarves defianly ignore convention and go their own way with anthemic results. That energy level doesn’t diminish in the slightest as “Parasite” follows hot on the heels of “You Lose, We Win” with a great and dismissive punk guitar riff and some keyboards which register as a garish, hot pink spray paint splash against dirty, grimy sentiments, even better realized when Nick Oliveri steals the mic for “Come Unglued,” and injects a little extra poison into the band’s bloodstream for kicks. Listening to the shift that “Come Unglued” represents, it’s hard not to note that the song really stands apart from the rest of the album’s running as Oliveri really tweaks it and changes the focus to be undeniably dark. That darkness is echoed in the turgid and sludgy stomp of “Lean,” but contrasted by the far superior and punky “We Will Dare” – the problem is that the struggle between those sonic extremes leaves the poppier side at a disadvantage. Simply said, “We Will Dare” would mark a true highlight on any other album but, because turgid sludge surrounds it, the potential single has a lot of difficulty breaking through. Happily, the play does recover with the help of a fairly Alice Cooper-esque rocker in the form of “Sixteen” and then hits upon some really solid Dead Milkmen-sounding punk with “Stabbed My Dad” before finally bringing the album to a satisfying close with “All For You.” Now, it is important to point out that “All For You” does return to a darker headspace where a sense of trepidation overcomes the running and colors the album in that manner because it is the closing cut [and, at over three minutes long, “All For You” is one of the longest songs on the album too –ed], the close of the album is still satisfying because the craft of “All For You” really shines through and leaves listeners feeling energized as the proverbial needle lifts. Leaving listeners feeling energized as “All For You” ensures that some listeners will be ready to go front-to-back with Concept Album again right away; it just feels that good.

And that Concept Album does feel so good is arguably the greatest part about the album. Really, how many bands can say that they’re able to push their own creative boundaries and hook new audiences forty years into their career? Somehow, The Dwarves have managed to do exactly that, and come off sounding ageless and continue to sound fresh. How? By just dropping their heads and doing exactly what they’ve always done, without apology. What a concept. [Bill Adams]


The Dwarves’ Concept Album LP is out now. Buy it here, directly from the band’s official store.

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