The Dictators - Bloodbrothers (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Dictators

Bloodbrothers (1978)


In 1978, a lot of early punk bands were just getting around to putting out their first full length. A few had debuted the year before and had quickly cranked out album number two. By 1978, The New York City based Dictators were already on their third LP. (Only the Ramones were further along with their fourth album, Road to Ruin.) Despite its title’s claim of solidarity, Bloodbrothers would be the last true Dictators record.

The Dictators’ origins actually predate the Ramones by a year, and they probably deserve more credit for helping shape what became the punk sound. Their sound was actually not quite punk and would be more accurately lumped in with proto-punk bands like The Stooges and MC5 or the early glam punk bands like the New York Dolls. (They covered The Stooges’ standard “Search & Destroy” on their previous album.) They essentially played revved up rock and roll with a healthy sense of humor.

Bloodbrothers opened with the now classic rallying cry “Faster and Louder”, which featured an uncredited appearance by The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. The song seemed to acknowledge that the band knew that they were being outdone by younger, wilder groups. It was also a bold statement. It seemed to say that they wouldn’t back down to the new competition. With that out of the way, the band reverted to playing goofy songs about love and heartbreak. “Baby, Let’s Twist” was derivative, but also a ton of fun. “No Tomorrow” tapped into the hopelessness and nihilism of punk, even if the music wasn’t really very dark. “The Minnesota Strip” was one of the all time great songs about women of the night.

The Dictators specialized in writing songs about girls. “Stay With Me” was one of the catchiest. The piano heavy “I Stand Tall” probably should have been used as background music for a training montage in an ‘80s movie. “Borneo Jimmy” had a great rock and roll riff and plenty of cowbell, but was a bit lackluster compared to the rest. The Dictators got their swagger back on the innuendo laden “What It Is”. The slow burn of “Slow Death” closed the album on high note.

All three of The Dictators’ ‘70s albums are worth owning. Bloodbrothers completed the accidental trilogy that started with Go Girl Crazy (1975) and continued with Manifest Destiny (1977). In more recent years, singer ‘Handsome’ Dick Manitoba has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. There have also been multiple lawsuits among guys who once thought of themselves as closer than family. Fortunately, none of that can diminish what The Dictators captured between the grooves.