Review Summary: The Parlor Mob's second major album is a tug-of-war between festival-rocking heaviness and bland, soulless balladry.
Behind sharp-edged guitar riffs and cackling tenor vocals, New Jersey Zeppelin-heads The Parlor Mob walked into the alternative rock spotlight in 2008 with And You Were a Crow
, channeling the musical vibes of the mighty Zepp and their modern followers like The White Stripes. But for their third album, their second on a major label, The Parlor Mob have set the bluesy guitars and groove-laden compositions aside in favor of a garage band aesthetic. Their album Dogs
has some fantastic songs that let the band go beyond emulating their heroes, but it’s when the tempo slows and groove departs that the derivativeness leaks into an otherwise strong and straight-ahead release.
It becomes clear very early that lead vocalist Mark Melicia is doing his best to emulate Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant (the two can become pretty indistinguishable during the opener “How It’s Going to Be”). This was extremely easy to see in the last single from their previous album, the bluesy rock song “Hard Times.” However, The Parlor Mob have made quite the paradigm shift since And You Were a Crow
, taking out a lot of the Led Zeppelin blues influence for a more punky, garage rock approach to their sound. The first single “Into the Sun” is the best example of that. As a radio-friendly single, it’s a fine specimen. Distortion runs rampant throughout “Into the Sun” and hearing Melicia climb the scale with his powerful tenor adds a mosh-creating crowd pleaser. In the faster-paced, “American Dream”, Melicia sounds more like Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At the Drive-in fame, and his bandmates compliment that comparison with a punk-fused beat and plenty of staccato-laden guitars.
The band’s use of distortion-infused guitars and smoother vocal patterns also call back to Jack White of the White Stripes. The squeals and heavy grinds from the guitars in “Fall Back” mix well with Melicia’s tenor, adding a groovy theme that’s pretty difficult to escape from. “Cross Our Hearts” escalates well into a thunderous chorus, while Melicia summons the “weight of the world,” creating a track with purpose and gravity behind it. The closing track, “The Beginning,” walks the line between heaviness and balladry, but is a unique gem in the Dogs
tracklist. Crashing cymbals and earth-shaking guitar riffs are amazingly set into a colossal motion. It’s by far one of the best songs written by the band yet.
But while The Parlor Mob have kept groove and flow at the forefront of their compositions (like the stomping beat of “Take What’s Mine”), Dogs
has far too many slower songs burying the hard rock style. The ballad “Practice in Patience” is a slower, piano/guitar theme that feels oddly tuned for an alternative rock crowd, while “I Want To See You” keeps the guitars resonant and echoed under a groovy drum track. However, once “Hard Enough” and its overly simplistic chorus breaks out, the album’s energy starts to slip. The aptly titled “Slip Through My Hands” is a very weak track that doesn’t capture any energy heard in songs like “American Dream” or “Into the Sun.” The guys in the band tightened down the heaviness a tad too much in Dogs
, sacrificing Zeppelin-esque fury for acoustic accessibility, which just doesn’t work out.
has some very heavy anthems in its tracklist, but between every solid song, there sits a shallow and unneeded distraction. Filling in gaps with hollow ballads just doesn’t do too much as a hard rock act, so Dogs
has its moments of wasted potential. But thanks to Melicia’s awesome vocal style and some surprisingly catchy hard rock compositions scattered throughout, The Parlor Mob’s second major album is a solid listen. The band still doesn’t have enough substance or virtuosity to be the next big thing (mostly because of an over-abundance of slower and weaker songs), but Dogs
is at the very least a progression from what originally sounded like a Zeppelin cover band. The Parlor Mob are starting to come into their own with Dogs
, and while there’s still a large amount of work to be done for a promising and prestigious future, their second album is a worthwhile and occasionally uplifting one.