Only Lovers Left Alive


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Only Lovers Left Alive Review

by Ralph Heibutzki

Punk fans couldn't have imagined the results when Dead Boys vocalist Stiv Bators joined forces with Sham 69's guitarist (Dave Parsons), bassist Dave Tregunna, and drummer Rick Goldstein in 1980. They certainly couldn't have foreseen this Blade Runner-style concept album about a teenager who stumbles onto an ex-CIA agent's tapes about who really runs world affairs (as "Dr. Beter" details). The sound is gutsy pop-punk built around razor-sharp guitars, but creative touches abound, including acoustic guitars, layered backing vocals, lush synthesizers, and even strings ("Fanfare for 1984"). "No Dreams" lays out an agenda that would loom large in Bators' next band, Lords of the New Church ("Corporation/government, they're run by the same"). "Take Them and Break Them" and "It's All the Same" express a similarly bleak world view. "It's a Little Bit Frightening" slams people's indifference to what's happening around them, only apathy's never sounded this catchy. The concept is seamless enough to include a punchy, rocked-up version of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changin'," which neatly upholds Bators' garage roots. "Ready to Snap" and "Can't Take You Anymore" find the album's teen hero weary of fighting the good fight, only to embrace the system he struggled to beat. Judging by the somber balladry of "Sold Your Soul for Fame," and "There'll Be No Tomorrow," the world's not any better off. Needless to say, there's plenty to think about here, but the audience didn't get it; the album tanked and the Wanderers crumbled in 1981. The band left a work that's remembered as a transition into Bators' Lords of the New Church era, but that's unfair. There's a sophistication unthinkable in the Dead Boys or Sham 69 days; this album's miles ahead of both, and worth another listen.

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