Welcome to today’s edition of Point/Counterpoint. We will be debating the merits, or complete lack thereof, of the Dictators’ second album, “Manifest Destiny.” The “pro” argument will be presented by our esteemed colleague and fellow Dictatorologist, Mike Mindless. The “con” viewpoint will be covered by resident nitwit Salvi C. Gentlemen, please present your opening statements:
MM: Manifest Destiny (abbreviated as MD from this point on) is 38:25 of magnificence.
SC: I think this album stinks on ice. It’s the Millard Fillmore, the Irlene Mandrell, the Joe Besser of Dictator LPs.
MM: This was my first introduction to the band. I purchased the LP because the cover reminded me of the gatefold in “On Your Feet or On Your Knees.” How can you deny songs like “Disease, “Science Gone Too Far” or “Young, Fast, and Scientific?”
SC: Which reason do you want as to why I don’t like it — the horrible sound, the bored performances, the weak tunes, the 3 sped-up songs at the end, or the fact that the whole direction of the LP was a huge over-reaction to the commercial failure of “Go Girl Crazy?”
MM: This LP had the best vocal mix and showed the widest range for the band . . . sure, the production is “big” arena, and the band kinda gets lost in that. I don’t think the tunes are weak so much as introspective. I actually really love songs like “Heartache” and “Hey Boys,” coming to this band from a hard rock background. I’m not sure if I would have been as big a fan if I had bought GGC first. It was almost too raw for my ears then and took a while to like as much as MD, which I loved from the very first note. MD was also their biggest success sales wise.
SC: I also like the 2 tunes you mention, but I can’t listen to most of this album. It’s doubly frustrating to know that the pre-LP demos are better than a lot of the final versions. It could have been so much better.
MM: I’d blame the producer for that. He had a way of making bands suffer. The Clash, especially Simonon, hated working with Sandy Pearlman, as he was forced to play the the bass parts over and over. The search for perfection is the antithesis to what music should be — live, immediate, and in your face. I also heard there was a lot of struggle in making MD. It went on forever, and the producers did things the band didn’t even know about, like bringing Allen La
nier in on keys.
SC: We’re supposed to be arguing here, but I totally agree that a huge part of why I dislike the album is due to its over polished sound. God, the band just sounds soooo bored. OK, so let’s go through this stinker track by track.
MM: “Exposed” is a solid kick-off, with cryptic lyrics about betrayal, directed at — who? Their producer? Or the band that had re-formed w/o the songwriter?
SC: Weakest song they ever recorded, and they put it in the lead-off spot. Oy. The fact that you like it is proof that you must have had better drugs in Jersey while growing up than I had in Boston.
MM: Aaaaand here we go.
SC: We both like “Heartache,” right? No issues here?
MM: How can you not love a song with lyrics like “Take me into your arms, grow my love on your farm?” “Heartache” is a winner.
SC: I never realized it overlaps with Tap’s “Sex Farm” until just now. OK, so let’s move to “Sleepin’ With The TV On.” A great tune with a great vocal, but there are not one but two better versions out there than the one on the LP.
MM: I only saw them play it once, it brought tears to my eyes. It’s still one of my favorites, schmaltzy voice crack and all.
How about “Disease?” A killer way to end side A. Talk about a schmaltzy, “Broadway” song, but I love the bombast. I do like the Turbo Super Freakout intro on the demo that I heard about 10 years before I finally heard it.
SC: Geez — did your mother have any kids who lived? “Disease” is ridiculous. It has all the grace and charm of a ruptured armadillo. Manitoba used to ad lib his intro for this on stage, and they were usually hilarious. Why did they pick this yuk-free version for the LP?
MM: HeyheyHEY —- we agreed —- NO MOTHERS.
SC: Sorry. So, did your FATHER have any kids who lived??
MM: I don’t know — ask your mother!
SC: Well played, sir. Let’s move to Side 2. We both love “Hey Boys,” right? I think “Steppin’ Out” is a pretentious over-reach that’s at least a minute too long.
MM: “Hey Boys” has great lyrics about preening for the other dudes. I love that tune. “Steppin’ Out” has some great guitar slinging in that last minute, and leads right into the best songs on the LP. “Science Gone Too Far” and “Young, Fast, and Scientific” were my rock and roll Bar Mitzvah.
SC: All of which are good, but are all way sped up!! “Search and Destroy” is especially bad — couldn’t the producer have taken another 5 minutes, and used a take that didn’t have both volume and speed issues?
MM: Sal, you ignorant slut! Maybe he did it on purpose? Surely after all that work it couldn’t have been by accident. I play guitar and the key is correct and locks in on those tunes, so maybe it’s just YOU!
SC: Ah, there it is. This debate would not have been complete without someone using that line. Who knows, and it’s impossible to ever correct it, since we both know the master tapes were lost in a fire years ago. Imagine what this LP could have been with better sound, a quick and dirty recording, and a few judicious substitutions of other tunes from that era.
MM: Like “Tender Was the Night,” with Meltzer’s lyrics. The studio version of S+D is much better than what’s on MD.
SC: See, there’s hope for you yet. Add “Tits To You,” “America the Beautiful,” “Interstellar Overdrive,” subtract “Steppin’ Out” and Disease,” sub a few demos in for tired tracks, and it’s a whole different album. It might still stink, but it would be a much better brand of stink! Here’s another question, and it might be the perfect way to wrap this up: If there hadn’t been a MD, would there ever have been a BB? Was MD a painful but necessary rung in the band’s evolutionary ladder?
MM: If there hadn’t been a Manifest Destiny to promote and tour the UK to support, Shernoff would never have gotten there to see their crazy punk scene and translate that new energy into creating maybe their best LP ever. Things could have gone either way after MD, the tour tapes show they were embracing big arena bombast and maybe would have morphed into a metal band, if the UK tour hadn’t happened.
This concludes this edition of Point/Counterpoint. Join us for our next topic: Worst Song Ever — “Honey” or “Precious and Few?”