Johnny Cooke: Vocals
Rikki Mehta: Lead Guitar
Luciano Vargas: Rhythm Guitar
Duncan Timms: Bass
Rich Mitchell: Drums
The Streets of the UK are changing. Becoming louder. Making their voices heard. A thriving scene currently commanded in the mainstream by bands such as Arctic Monkeys has sprung up, dredging up with it working class tales of unemployment, boredome, the grey blocks of a housing estate and cockney rhyming slang.
In this at least, the Dogs are no different: a five piece gang of youths shouting out catchy post-punk anthems in the mould of the Clash of the Jam with such poetic lines as "I'm a sick and shrunken soul in a drunken body" shouted out in a loud abrasive south london way. In typical indie fashion too, Turn Against this Land is raw and energetic- a direct contrast to such acts as the Kaiser Chiefs. And yet like the Kaiser Chiefs, the Dogs have the ability to get a hook lodged in your head for days on end.
It is also noticable that the Dogs, unlike many Indie acts actually make use of two guitarists, dishing out subtle harmonies and fills like there is no tomorrow. The bass though is strictly kept as a rhythm instrument often using simple root notes, also in the louder, more raw tracks it is often lost in translation. However, there are some good bass sections where the bass harmonises with the guitar (example, Londong Bridge). Drums are fairly simple but effective and the Dogs have an undeniably relentless rhythm section, keeping you dancing the whole way. The vocals are a strong point for Dogs with Cooke providing a raw and passionate performance throughout.
From first track London Bridge, it is clear that Turn Against this Land stands out from the mire of bands in this scene. Opening modestly with a rather annoying sample it suddenly breaks in wailing harmonised guitars and bass moving together in an almost Thin Lizzy-esque way to create a Big Ben bells riff. Then, suddenly the song kicks in with a modest but catchy bass line and the sort of "oomtss" drumming that it is almost impossible not to dance to. The song continues in this way with a loud raw chorus keeping you moving all the way.
The album continues with Selfish Ways which is pretty good, involving a catchy guitar riff. The chorus opens up with a classic line: "Darling I'll bring you flowers but I'll burn your house down", which while fairly corny I'll admit is one of those lines that simply lodges in your head. Once more Dogs continue their frantic pace and the driving noise of an angry youth.
Donkeys is certainly a standout track on the album. It is less energetic but actually pretty good songwriting. It's lack of a defined hook is it's downside, but it's one of those songs that really grows on you. She's Got a Reason is also a bit different. With a nice bass rhythm and Mike Skinner-esque commentry it is pretty good though looses focus a little and the lyrics leave a lot to be desired.
It's Not Right returns to the brash loud noise we come to expect from Dogs. It's actually quite interesting to listen to musically with some dissonances and good use of two guitars again. I really enjoyed the vocals in this song too. The single Tarred and Feathered is pretty good as well though quite similar to London Bridge, relying on driving bass and a loud chorus to keep the listener moving away. It comes with a seriously catchy chorus that again is still harsh and raw. However, on that note, this song is slightly more smooth than the rest with a sheen that makes it clear that this is intended for radio play and indeed as a single it has got into the UK top 40.
The album does not finish as well as it begins. Although Red is quite good as a rule these songs are quite a lot less focussed and simply just not great songwriting. Still, they are certainly listenable and will probably sound great live. The final track is labelled Untitled but I am inclined to believe it is called Turn Against This Land like the album. It's a short ballad clocking in at under 2 minutes. However, it is actually a calming beautiful end to the album.
As far as album design goes, the production is very raw and seems like many new young bands to be more of a recreation of their live show. However, this is not a bad thing as the Dogs live show is both enjoyable, loud, frenetic and pure rock. And in the end, slightly lacklustre production does not limit the sheer passion that was obviously put into this album.
The cover and booklet art of London scenery and lyrics scrawled messily across the page leave the purchaser in no doubt of the Dogs roots.
Overall Turn Against This Land is a raw and powerful debut from an exciting band who while they have gained some NME attention and can count Jonathan Ross as die hard fans are still not all that well known and really deserve more exposure.
Tarred and Feathered