By all rights I should hate The Dwarves. Their constant use of naked ladies and casual dropping of the word “slut” (among other things) does make my feminist skin prickle, but I can’t help but like them anyway. They are what they are; you know what to expect when you pop in a Dwarves album. They don’t pretend to be anything else.
Lyrically, the Dwarves appeal to the juvenile delinquent within. “Born Again” covers the same topics as pretty much everything else the band has ever written — sex, booze, drugs, and a little violence. As usual, they don’t take themselves too seriously. Or they take themselves incredibly seriously but have taken extreme care to seem like they don’t. Sometimes I’m not sure which. Whichever it is, it’s been working for the past twenty-five years and shows no signs of stopping. They haven’t matured out of writing about the same topics. For any other band, that would be a negative, but somehow the Dwarves keep making it work, even as they keep getting older. I guess there are pills for that now.
The music on this record is pretty fantastic. They stay true to their classic sound, keeping things a little more upbeat and surf-punk-ish. They plow through 18 short and fast tunes (the longest song on the album clocks in just under two-and-a-half minutes) full of tight riffs and catchy hooks. They brought in a bunch of special guests (Dexter Holland, Spike Slawson, Eric Valentine, Gary Owens, Nick Oliveri, Josh Freese) and brought back some ex-Dwarves (Sgt. Saltpeter, Vadge Moore).
Maybe this isn’t a surprise, but for my money (which is technically nothing) the best song on the album is also the least sex-and-drugs-fueled of the whole release, “Working Class Hole.” I’m not even making that judgment based on the lyrics, though, the track is full of smooth melodies and a poppy chorus that can stick inside your brain.
Overall, “Born Again” is a solid addition to the Dwarves’ catalog. Whatever you want to think about their penchant for boobs, crossboners and crass imagery, they’re good at what they do. And I’m not turning in my angry feminist membership card for saying so.