Tuesday, January 11, 2011

L.A. Punk Vol. 4- The Dils

I'm back with another addition to my L.A. Punk series. This time the subject of the article is The Dils. They were a hard band to track down concrete facts about. Neither of their CD reissues have any biographical information but here's what I've pieced together. The Dils formed in 1976 and go their start in Los Angeles. They later permanently relocated to San Francisco but their original ties to the L.A. scene make them an important part of the early L.A. scene. The core of the band are Chip and Tony Kinman who play guitar and bass, respectively. The band had a few drummers throughout their existence. The original drummer, Andre Algover (Endre Alqover), played on their first single and possibly their second. Other drummers included Rand Mcnally (co-founder of Dangerhouse Records), Zippy Pinhead, and John Silvers. Their first single was released by Chris Ashford on his What? Records label which had just been put in place to release the first Germs single and their second was released on Dangerhouse Records, both iconic labels associated with the birth of punk in Los Angeles. They were also featured in Cheech and Chong's Up In Smoke in 1978 during the battle of the bands scene beating out many other classic L.A. punk bands for the part in the movie, including the Germs whose "Sex Boy" found on their first single was recorded during the try outs for the movie held at the Whisky a Go Go.

They were an overtly political band which seemed to get them in trouble a lot. They were self proclaimed socialists constantly calling for class wars. They never really seemed at home in the fun loving early L.A. punk scene which I'm sure was one of the factors which led to the move to San Francisco though getting banned from the Whisky may have also contributed. There are a lot of published interviews from the 70's to read if you want to get the Kinman brothers' perspective on punk and the new wave. I always found that they tend to come off as slightly pretentious in interviews. Whatever their politics and opinions may have been, the music speaks for itself.

The band broke up in 1980 but the Kinman brothers never stopped. They started Rank and File soon after the Dils which continued in the rock direction the Dils took on their final release. After Rank and File they regrouped as Cowboy Nation and later Blackbird.

I Hate the Rich b/w You're Not Blank

For those of you keeping track, this was released in 1977 on What Records as What 02. (What 01 was the Germs' first single.) "I Hate the Rich" is a lightning fast guitar onslaught. It also serves as an introduction to the Dils' politics which lean pretty far to the left. "You're Not Blank" is one of my favorite punk songs of all time. The mix, by today's standards, isn't very good but the fact that the guitar is so loud, just as loud if not a little louder than the vocals, adds to the charm.

198 Seconds of the Dils (Class War b/w Mr. Big)

This, their second single, was also released in 1977 but this time on the legendary Dangerhouse label. For their second outing the sound is bigger, the production is better, and the songwriting and playing is a little more rock & roll. "Class War" is up there with the best of the Dangerhouse catalog. The guitar is hard but catchy and the vocals are intense. "Mr. Big" is a great song but not the greatest tune of its time. The vocals are catchy but he lyrics aren't the greatest you'll ever hear (Hey Mr. Big/You look so big to others/Hey Mr. Big/I can see you're nothin); typical socialist punk lyrics.

Made in Canada (Sound of the Rain b/w Red Rockers Rule b/w It's Not Worth It)

Fast forward to 1979. There isn't a hint of punk left in the Dils' sound. They went soft. On this record there are acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies. It's not bad if you're not expecting punk. It holds up with the softer of the power pop stuff coming out around this time. "Red Rockers Rule" rocks the hardest (but it doesn't rock THAT hard...). "It's Not Worth It" is the catchiest of the three and "Sound of the Rain" is the softest. All in all not a bad release but I won't lie and say I wasn't disappointed the first time I heard it.

Class War

This is the first of two CD reissues by Bacchus Archives. There's no reason for there to be two because there's barely 80 minutes spread out between the two but they had to split up three singles worth of material with some live stuff so that fans would have to buy both...Anyway, This release opens with their first single, "I Hate The Rick" and "You're Not Blank" (Don't ask me why they called it Class War if the Dangerhouse single isn't on here...). In addition to those two classic pieces of punk history you get a decent live recording from 1980. Within those ten live songs you get a pretty cool version of "Mr. Big", a slower version of "You're Not Blank", a cover of Buddy Holly's "Modern Don Juan", "Red Rockers Rule", It's Not Worth It" and a few others. I would never have bought this for the live material, it's just not that great. But, the first Dils single IS that great.

Dils Dils Dils

This, number two in Bacchus's series of Dils reissues, covers far more ground than the first. The CD opens with "Blow Up", a demo from 1977 and The Dils first recording. It's a great song. It's got catchy vocals reminiscent of what they would end up doing on the Made In Canada EP but it's punk and the guitar is really crunchy. Next up is the two songs from their second single and all three from their third. Rounding out the CD are 9 songs recorded at 2 different shows in 1978 and 1 song recorded live in 1979. The band was about to go soft and there are definite hints of that on these 1978 recordings but they aren't entirely there yet. The first four live tracks are the best, being the most punk and the best recording quality; it even contains an 8 minute version of the Velvet Underground's "What Goes On".


  1. I attended one of their early shows at the Whisky-a-go-go; I believe the date was December 26, 1977; they played with The Nuns (Alejandro Escovedo's band at the time) and The Dickies. I remember Kim Fowley was there in the audience exuding a spooky vide. Leonard Graves from the Dickies had a cast on his leg and was wearing pajama bottoms; he still managed to dance very well. Good show, glad I went.

  2. I saw the Dils a couple of times. Once in Austin at Raul's around '78. They were awesome, probably the best punk band I saw from the west coast.

    Then I saw them in SF opening up for the Buzzcocks in late '79 and yes, they had gone more country. Good, but just not as good.