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Scum punks The Dwarves delight and disgust

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To some purists, punk rock was never meant to be an accessible, commercialized product, but rather the seedy underbelly of bands challenging societal norms with rampant drug use, fornication and a fascination with serial killers. With G.G. Allin dead and bands like Poison Idea, the Mentors and Antiseen in relative retreat, the time is ripe for the re-ascendancy of the granddaddies of "scum punk" -- The Dwarves.

Formed in Chicago in the early '80s as the garage band Suburban Nightmare, the partnership of frontman Blag Dahlia (a.k.a. Paul Cafaro) and the eternally masked guitarist He Who Cannot Be Named has lasted through unpredictable mayhem and record-label changes.

To give you an idea, 1990's notorious Blood, Guts and Pussy -- with cover art depicting two blood-soaked naked women, a dwarf and a dead rabbit -- was rated by Spin as the most offensive album of all time. And by 1992, The Dwarves were unceremoniously bounced from their home at Sub Pop Records for the death hoax perpetuated by the notorious He Who. (With members of Sub Pop roster bands Unsane and Seven Year Bitch having died for real, the label apparently didn't appreciate the publicity stunt.)

So The Dwarves bounced from Epitaph to Reptilian to Recess, and finally to Sympathy Records, meanwhile cementing a fan base that appreciated both their onstage antics and sexist lyrics. Europe, Japan and Australia aren't quite as afraid of The Dwarves as the American heartland, and neither are the media icons incorporating their music, from the inevitable Playboy, Howard Stern and Viva la Bam to the curious SpongeBob SquarePants (which could screw up kids' brains for life!).

So what does all this hoo-hah sound like on record? The scummy side of The Dwarves owes much to The Stooges and The Cramps, while their melodic punk tendencies scream Ramones. On their 2004 Sympathy debut The Dwarves Must Die -- featuring cameos from members of The Offspring, Urge Overkill, The Vandals and Me First -- they branch out with surprising tidbits of hip hop, death metal and noise, somewhat reminiscent of Rob Zombie. The pop-punk single "Salt Lake City" takes a swipe at the Mormons, as well as the goody-two-shoes straightedge stance to which The Dwarves seem diametrically opposed.

The latest product of this twisted ensemble -- which now includes the Fresh Prince of Darkness (guitarist Marc Diamond of Mondo Generator), bassist Clint Torres and drummer Wreck Tom -- is the Bob Sexton-produced DVD FEFU. Starring alterna-sluts The Suicide Girls and fetish artist Dave Naz, as well as a heavy dose of "nudity, violence and dwarf love," the DVD documents two decades of the band's insane live performances. Between snorting lines off a hooker's ass, Dahlia might regale the audience with a sensitive reading from one of his published novels, Nina or Armed to the Teeth With Lipstick. Or maybe he'll explain the lyrics of "This Jihad," which implies that John Walker Lindh joined the Taliban for the hot Afghan pussy.

Regardless, every Dwarves gig is yet another fun-filled demonstration on both the joys and dangers of living hard and fast. So far, least nobody's died young.

The Dwarves with The Turbo AC's and The Cheats. 9 pm. Fri., Feb. 2. 31st Street Pub, 3101 Penn Ave., Strip District. $12 ($15 at the door). 412-391-8334 or www.31stpub.com

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