That the Dils’ first LP or EP (and first 12-inch) would come out seven years after the group called it quits should serve as a reminder how comparatively small and ineffectual the independent record scene was in the late ’70s. Although the now-legendary Dils were one of the best and largest-drawing West Coast punk groups of the original ’77-’80 punk explosion, they released only three 7-inch singles during four years of existence.
The trio played 90-second primal-scream maximum punk ditties with fiery politics (a real rarity in ’77 Los Angeles); Army brat brothers Chip and Tony Kinman topped them off with Everlyesque harmonies. Culled from two cassette recordings, the sound on the posthumous Live! is hotter than most bootlegs, and the album offers a parade of neo-classics: “I Hate the Rich,” “Class War” and an incredibly improved (slowed down) “You’re Not Blank.” (Fans will also recognize “The Sound of the Rain,” a Dils single the Kinmans re-recorded for the second Rank and File LP.) As John Silvers, the longest-running of four drummers who served with the pair, makes his vinyl debut here, even the material that’s familiar from the singles (about half) sounds tighter and more powerful. Rarely has a historical document seemed so timely or so current.
Side One of the second posthumous Dils LP compiles the seven tracks from the band’s three original singles plus “Blow Up” (previously included on the first Rat Music for Rat People compilation). Where Live! unearthed seven never-before-heard songs, the live Side Two of The Dils adds an additional eight new numbers from a different show (again with Silvers). Although the sound quality isn’t as good, the murk can’t hide Chip Kinman’s lashing guitar on the brutal “Citizen,” or the overall vintage punk aggression on “National Guard” and the catchy “You Don’t Matter Anymore.” Long before Billy Bragg, the Dils mixed crackling socialist politics and personal lyrics, but it’s the trio’s tight fire that rides it home. The Dils is thus a more complete retrospective, encompassing primitive ’77 slam-punk, the band’s later, more accomplished attack and the final “Les Dils” single, a stylistic prelude to the Kinmans’ subsequent bands, Rank and File and Blackbird.