DOGGY STYLE: THE DOGS TRIBUTE - Various Artists (Future Now)
The tribute record thing has probably been way overdone and the first reaction to this Japanese release was to ask if we really needed a double CD set toasting a band that landed on the '70s Detroit scene riding its second wave who made a modest impact posthumously. The answer is "Yes", of course, or you wouldn't be reading this review and the line-up of enlightened acts queuing to kick 'em out on this one (Powder Monkeys, The Gimmies, Jackie and the Cedrics, The BellRays) is stellar because The Dogs are/were worth making a fuss about.

You won't find much written about these Dogs who, by the way, should not be confused with the French band of fthe same name. That they were Johnny-come-slightly-latelys to Motor City prominence was no fault of their own. The band members were in high school when the Stooges and the MC5 started strutting their alternately fucked-up and revolutionary stuff at the close of the '60s. The Motor City burned the year before The Dogs formed. They did play with the Five and graced the Grande stage with them around the time of "Back in the USA".

The Dogs recorded a scorching single tribute to you-know-who, "John Rock and Roll Sinclair" that actually pre-dated John Lennon's "Free John Sinclair" - and was a whole lot better song for mine. In raw energy terms this is proto-punk a good few years before the Pistols et al put their head above the parapet. Despite showing such support the band wasn't taken under the wing of the Trans Love Energy/White Panthers (by then wisely re-branding as the Rainbow Peoples Party). Later versions of the signature song were less lyrically charitable towards Sinclair who The Dogs adjudged to be turning into the people he'd been fighting against.

Of course lots had changed by the time Sinclair got out of stir. For one, smack had started laying the Michigan rock scene to waste. Venues were closing and the number of bands was contracting. The Dogs saw the writing and ended up relocating to Los Angeles, where they did a bit of playing with all the notable up-and-comers and then dissolved. A decade later they became popular among the Killed By Death series fans for "Slash Your Face", a raw ditty that doesn't mask its sentiment.

Their skinny studio-recorded legacy and some hot live stuff made it to CD on a Dionysus release ("Fed Up!") in 2000, but you'll find little written about them - David A. Carson's solid "Grit,Noise and Revolution" book doesn't devote a word - and they remain largely a cult item. Japan-based expat Michiganite "Detroit" Jack Waldron thought they deserved better when he heard about them in the '90s. He penned the liners for their Dionysus CD and is the man behind this tribute, as well as a December 2007 Far Eastern min-tour by the reformed Dogs.

I can't say I know all the bands involved well, most of whom come from Japan, but there aren't any stinkers among them. The late, great D4 from New Zealand get a couple of tracks and almost exceed the original version of "John Rock and Roll Sinclair". Jackie and the Cedrics' garagey "Rebel Rock" gets along well and The Gimmies sound better than I've heard them with a feedback-laden "Fed Up". Powder Monkeys reprise "Black Tea" ifrom their so-so posthumous "Outta Control Rock 'n' Roll" EP. To these biased ears they still sound like the best band to grace these discs but some of the other contenders run a viable second.

The Faceful sound tougher than badly-cooked steak and their ace female vocalist has a great time with The Barbarians' "Are You a Boy Or Are You a Girl?" which was a favoured Dogs cover of choice. Smash Your Face grapple with "Slash Your Face" and although I have no idea who they are, they come out on top. Another act that's tough enough.

The sound of Mach 55 bouncing off walls of divine feedback in the middle-eight of "Dogs in the Cathouse" instantly stamps them as something special and you'll lap up the guitar outro.

Turning to the second CD (and I'm playing in the dark here because my review copy didn't include what are said to voluminous liners) and Melt-Banana contribute "GST-483" which is a super distorto, vaguely psychedlic stomp with female vocals and non-cheesy synthesizers. The cooly-named Ed Woods sound like a heavy-duty version of the Cramps with a similarly chunky "Everything is Cool". BellRays devotees will need their version of "I'm Alive" even if they don't know the original and Texas Terri's typically raunchy "Oh Yeah" is a keeper. I'm not sure who's backing the lady on this one but they're righteously rocking. The song's a post-Dogs effort from mainman Lauren Dog.

Stupid Babies Go Mad is a wonderful band name and "I Want" sounds like hardcore Hard-Ons. Australian tourists from japan, King Bros, sit in a musical world of their own and their "Spooky Tricks" sounds like a punk rock Beefheart song.

These discs are all about guitars and you won't hear a more excessive use of them than the version of "Slither" by punks-gone-heavy Boris. The vocal is secondary as they plough through what sounds like a dirge initially but ends up as a distort fest, like Blue Cheer on sake. I had to take this one for a second spin immediately after the first listen to make sure it was as heavy as it seemed or my debilitating head cold hadn't returned. Thunderous stuff.

A trio of actual Dogs recordings fills out the second CD, with the previously unreleased "LA Times" and a fearsome if lo-fi and slightly boogified "John Rock and Roll" the picks. Pity that night's audience sounded so clueless but that's rock and roll.

Speaking of clueless, most will laugh at the Jimmy Swaggart rants that intersperse of the tuneage. Hard to believe anyone took that crap seriously, scarier to think some still do.

Japanese CDs more often than not come with a hefty price tag. This is a tribute worth the time of day and the cheapest way to track it down is online through Pacification. You can also read Detroit Jack's review of their tour and a rundown on the album contents here.- The Barman


 






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