Sunday, June 28, 2009

D.O.A. - Let's Wreck the Party

(A awkward album cover - the bald guy is Ken Lester D.O.A.'S Bernie Rhodes-like manager.)

Your first two concerts shape your musical vision; mine were Neil Young and D.O.A. Canadian rock legends in mid-eighties awkward spots became my benchmarks for live entertainment.Both shows were free courtesy of a brother-in-law who was covering them for the Winnipeg Free Press. We saw Neil in the since demolished Winnipeg Arena and got to watch from the Winnipeg Jets bench. D.O.A., on the other hand, played a social hall called Le Rendez-Vous, which had the ass-half of a canoe sticking out of it. All in all, it was pretty damn Canadian.

Neil Young, playing with the terribly-named International Harvesters, was deep in the middle of one of his recurring country-ish phases, Neil, returning to his former home town for the first time in years began by saying, "Welcome home" before launching into a slew of his best tracks, including a scorching solo acoustic, “The Needle and the Damage Done”.

(The almost Life Magazine like photo shoot for the North American cover.)

As for D.O.A. (Joey Shithead - vocals/guitar, Dave Gregg - guitar/vocals, Brian Goble - bass/vocals, Dimwit - drums), they played all their material, even the slicker material from 1985's Let’s Wreck the Party, with undiminished fury. Le Rendez-Vous turned into a smoke-filled, beer-soaked sauna and neither the band or the audience let up for a second.

(The more fitting UK album cover.)

Like Neil's mid-eighties album (his sales were so bad his own label, Geffen, sued for making music "unrepresentative of himself") Let's Wreck the Party's new direction was not met with universal acclaim. In fact when, in-between songs, Joey Shithead threw a sealed copy of the album into the crowd it got tossed back on stage, unclaimed! Y'see D.O.A. had, under the tutelage of 80’s hair-rock also-ran Brian “Too Loud” McLeod from the Headpins, cannonballed into the Rock mainstream. Like a Chumbawamba for the mid-eighties, they tried to mix pop trappings (keyboards, Big Rock guitar, saxophone) with radical politics (“General Strike”, “Race Riot” - listen here).

(D.O.A played Rock Against Racism, Rock Against Reagen and, yes, Rock against Radiation - alliterative action!)

The album bombed; too many metal tempos and neat n’ clean backing vocals for the increasingly-conservative punk scene and yet too crude for eighties pop radio (check out Wimpy’s gnarled vocals clashing with the MTV-friendly production on ‘Singin’ in the Rain’).

Let's Wreck the Party is, however, a logical successor to 1982’s nigh-on-perfect, War on 45. The anthemic tracks (like “Our World”) were, as their live show proved, still fist-waving and the song-writing had leapt forward. After covering Edwin Starr’s “War” previously, Joey Shithead then penned his own funk-protest tract, “Dance O’ Death” (a concert staple complete with The Rev. Joey Shithead and his flailing crucifix). While surely not a highlight of the album (even though it had a video!), the song showed that the band was no longer tied down by loud n' fast rules.

Let’s Wreck the Party is like D.O.A.’s version of the Clash's Combat Rock (War on 45 being like a condensation of London Calling, with no parallel Sandanista betwixt) - outwardly commercial but deeply weird. If it’s a sell-out, it’s unclear who the target market was. The album blenderized unassimilable sources (listen to those Doors-ish keyboards on the otherwise gruff "Murder in Hollywood") together and spilled out a reasonably cohesive album. Let's Wreck the Party may not surpass their earlier work but it got an adventurous feel, not something you'd say about every album they've put out since.

Speaking of new work, D.O.A.'s 2008 album, Northern Avenger ("Police Brutality" video here), with its giant production courtesy of Bob Rock is kind of a throwback to this album's sound, just with less musical diversity.

Most of D.O.A.'s most crucial releases are in print on Joey's Sudden Death Records please go there and support the band.)

Let’s Wreck the Party now available at Sudden Death!!

Suuport the band!
Sudden Death
Alternative Tentacles

P.S. They're making a documentary on D.O.A. (after all Joey was the only non-American to get time in the American Hardcore documentary).


  1. Such a funny period for DOA at the time. I saw them in '85 too, at a hall and they were amazing. Let's Wreck The Party though was pretty forgettable. Each album afterwards had a few moments worth hearing, but their new one, Northern Avenger was quite a return to form. Dave Gregg is missed!

  2. What was up with the "metal" production values and engineers in '85? Crossover, my arse...

    I was incredibly disappointed with this album (and the Circle Jerks "Wonderful").

    Try to find something to like on it, but this is a tough one. The tinny guitars on "General Strike" and "Race Riot" were anemic compared to the awesome versions on the Peel Session 12". LWtP was some of the slowest, sluggish things they ever did. ("Singin' in the Rain" actually comes off as rockin' on this...)

    Joe himself, said he couldn't stand it and that's why I'll urge you all to go to the Sudden Death site and get the Lost Tapes CD to hear what some of these songs should have sound like.

    Ya hey!

  3. Kenny
    The tour (amazing) and the album (problematic) are inseparable for me. D.O.A. were good friends with Winnipeg's punk rock promoter Mike Lambert so they played here(in a bunch of different venues) so many times that I lost count.


    LWTP is way too wussy to be cross-over (though it's not without it's metal-ness).

    Again this being the first album I heard of their's does increase it's value to me. (With the terrible production foisted on them by their management and the gang choruses it's got a tiny bit of Cut the Crap to it.)

    As for "Wonderful" that's a bit of a harsh comparision. I saw Circle Jerks on that tour and they were so bad it was excruciating. I think that's because by then they were a spent force (despite Keith still being a good interview). I mean, you can't imagine the demos for Wonderful showing a better side to the band. D.O.A. still had lots of life left in them as we shall see...

    Thanks to you both for the sharp, thoughtful feedback!

  4. Yeah Jeffen, I guess Wonderful should have a special category for WTF???/uber band failure and LWtP was merely a blip in D.O.A.'s otherwise strong back catalog.

    I bought LWtP at a gig (my first full-length D.O.A. album too!) and remember the utter disappointment of hearing it on the turntable. I listened to it twice (first time, my ears were still ringing from the gig...) and quickly traded it off. I was reluctant to buy True (North), but eventually did and that became a fave. And remember, I'm a fan of Cut the Crap and love a song with a gang chorus, but damn wasn't 1985 a particularly hard year for punks?

    Oh, and I didn't necessarily mean these were crossover, more that this is around the beginning of the switch to metal labels by punk bands. Like being distributed by Faulty, Alternative Tentacles, Fringe Product, or Cargo, they toured with some dubious choices, most likely made because of some label exec and release schedule, not because of any musical or political solidarity. Nature of the beast that punk labels fold rapidly, but some of those bills were whack, and despite what 7 Seconds sang, there was no way we would "Walk Together, Rock Together"...


  5. nice job on this write-up. I only have good memories of the pre-wreck the party DOA.
    Joey Shithead's book is great too!

  6. Bio
    Oh yes, I was appealing to your love of CtC because there's definitely a connection between the two albums.

    We did lose something in the metal era circa '85-'88. I stopped listening to new music for a while and went back to 1977 for a few years - I do that when music goes south.


    Thanks for noticing the words and worry not we will discuss I, Shithead (which I'm re-reading as I get these posts done.)

  7. Hi Jeffen,
    I love D.O.A, there one of my favorite bands. I always thought The warrior was a good song. Anyway, as far as later records go from them I really like 13 flavors of doom.But it's hard to top the early ones. Nice post, thanks.

  8. Frank
    Glad you enjoyed the post, even now that the link is gone!


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