Three chord, under three-minute punk rock was never really my thing. Minor Threat was a fun listen as an angry, anarchic teenager but listening to them seriously is a bit more difficult now. Though the intent is endearing and the historic value is important, the anger is adolescent and the music fairly uninteresting. Kid Dynamite took their musical cues from the '80s punk scenes in Los Angeles, California, and Washington, D.C., threw in a dash of (refreshing) positivity and tackle box full of pop hooks. For this weary, cynical listener, Kid Dynamite, while not the most innovative band on the block, were certainly a step ahead of the other pimply-faced kids on the street banging out punk rock anthems in their garages.
Kid Dynamite was formed in 1997 out of the ashes of the beloved Lifetime. Ex-guitarist Dan Yemin would ride the coattails of his former band, but produce something in Kid Dynamite that was a little fiercer, and with a harder edge. Based on the popularity of Lifetime, the band formed a rabid following and quickly issued two full lengths, a split EP with 88 Fingers Louie, along with handful of compilation appearances before dissolving three years later. Cheap Shots, Youth Anthems collects their scattered compilation appearances, demo outtakes, live recordings, and more, making a fine bookend for the career of this vibrant band.
On the twenty-nine tracks presented here, Kid Dynamite never take things over the three-minute mark, and often keep things under a minute, making it tight, terse, and to the point. Guitar solos, pre-choruses, and even bridges rarely have a place in these songs, as the band tears it up, playing each track as if it was the only moment they had to commit it to tape. It is this ferocious, determined energy that kept Cheap Shots, Youth Anthems spinning on my stereo, daring me to take it off.
Divided into five sections -- The Classics, The Covers, Six Songs with Jay Singing, Demo Outtakes, Live Radio -- Cheap Shots, Youth Anthems presents a great overview of Kid Dynamite's output. The Classics collects tracks from the aforementioned split with 88 Fingers Louie as well as a song from one of many compilation appearances. The Covers finds the band paying tribute to Black Flag, Circle Jerks, the Clash, Minor Threat, and the Dead Kennedys. While none of these tracks are particularly illuminating, they do give a good indication of the influences coursing through the Kid Dynamite catalog. Six Songs with Jay Singing, is a crudely recorded, yet passionate early demo that offers up no surprises, but lays its cards on the table, setting the musical course the band would follow on their "official" releases. The Demo Outtakes showcase seven tracks that didn't make the cut for the demo, but not for lack of quality. These tracks are as adequately inspired and performed as the cuts from the same sessions, and are a nice addition to the collection. Rounding out the disc is Live Radio. Captured live on 94WYSP Philadelphia, this would be the last Kid Dynamite performance before singer Jason Shevchuk left the group. Though suffering from a manhandled radio mix, the tracks are a fitting farewell for the group, and still finds at them at the top of their game.
Jade Tree, who usually have fantastic packaging for their releases, have outdone themselves with Cheap Shots, Youth Anthems. A DVD accompanies the CD, filled with live performances and still photos, and the booklet is nicely detailed with track-by-track notes from the band. While Kid Dynamite's place in punk rock history remains to be seen, they were certainly enthusiastic performers and offered up some of the best old school punk rock for their time. For the diehard fan, or the punk rocker looking for an introduction to this fiery group, Cheap Shots, Youth Anthems is a must have.