The Dwarves Invented Rock & Roll

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The Dwarves have built a career out of pretending to be the scuzziest punk band in the known universe, but the one time they sounded as crude and dangerous as their self-created legend attests was on 1990's Blood Guts & Pussy, a raw, bruising set that sounded as if it could have been cut in an afternoon and was delivered with a foul conviction that made it seem they really believed their lyrics in tunes like "Back Seat of My Car" and "Fuck You Up and Get High." Of course, with the passage of time and the release of albums like 2000's Come Clean and 2010's The Dwarves Are Born Again, it's become obvious that the band's sleazy persona and fervent endorsement of sex, drugs, and violence was merely a sort of performance art, and 2014's The Dwarves Invented Rock & Roll often plays more like a comedy album than hardcore punk. "Trailer Trash," "Fun to Try," and "Sluts of the USA" are so clearly played for laughs that you can almost feel the elbow jabbed into your ribs, "Fiction" sounds like some curious parody of Kid Rock, and "Unpredictable" is built around various improbable samples from other tunes. Even when the Dwarves lay out some real-deal punk rock on Invented Rock & Roll, the production is slick enough that you could skate on it, and mostly this sounds like a standard-issue SoCal pop-punk album, tight and fast and hooky but not posing much of a threat. The one moment where the band conjures up some menace is on the metal-fortified "Bleed Alright," but they shoot themselves in the foot with some goofy found audio and cheesy vocal effects. As instrumentalists, the Dwarves sound more precise than ever on The Dwarves Invented Rock & Roll, but that was never really the point with these guys -- when for a moment they seemed like the most degenerate punk band on Earth, these days they barely seem like a punk band at all, and even if they generate a laugh sometimes, so do Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, and they can play better.

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