Review Summary: Fun, energetic, enjoyable and much to be desired from this debut LP
Dogleg. The band has garnered quite a bit of buzz without even having an album to their name. In fact, it only took one song to have their new record Melee be one of the most anticipated this year. That track was Fox. Live videos surfaced of the band’s energetic sets and the punk community was hooked. Now Dogleg has a full length to their name and people have been quick to rave. Melee is a great freshman LP release for the band that shows their vigor, tight musicianship, and overall limitless potential.
So, what’s the big deal? What has punk and emo fanatics all worked up? Dogleg has untapped force and emotion in their songs. They play fast and put all their feelings out in front of you. The musicianship is close knit and fantastic from beginning to end on Melee. It is also easy to see where they pull inspiration from. The sound itself borrows from early emotional punk and the recent revival period. Sometimes you will hear Sunny Day Real Estate and Rites of Spring and at other times it will be Joyce Manor and Jeff Rosenstock.
There are a lot of great things to say about this record, so, I would like to get the not so great aspects out of the way. It boils down to three things really. The songs are very samey and get repetitive to a point. This is somewhat expected from a punk record. It’s almost in the vein of Turnover’s "Peripheral Vision" or Galaxie 500’s "Today". However, this record is not either of those to be factual. The vocals for the most part are great but on more than one occasion towards the end of songs there is a bit where they do a layered chant to close a track giving it a dramatic feel. This loses its luster after the second and third time hearing it. Lastly, the lyrics. Man, it’s really just cookie cutter emo. I am in no way, shape, or form a guy who cares a lot about lyrics but these are just… ugh.
Now that that is over with, we have the good stuff. Starting with the opener “Kawasaki Backflip”, one of the stronger tracks, Dogleg gets right into it showing off their airtight playing. This opener reminds me a lot of Sunny Day Real Estates’ "Seven" really just in the first 15 seconds with the high-quality riffs and loud, in-your-face attitude. Aside from that, it’s all Dogleg. The vocals from Alex Stoitsiadis on this record are a treat. He has a way with his shouting. You feel energized by his force yet comforted and at peace all at the same time. In a way, the vocals sort of save this album. Yes, the musicianship is fantastic and instrumentally it is extremely on point. Yet, if you were to throw some basic, run of the mill punk vocalist who just whined the lyrics throughout this would turn into something much different and far less enjoyable. This LP also doesn’t overstay its welcome clocking in at 35 minutes. They say what they need to say, give you their all and get out of your hair.
I could talk extensively about the endless great moments on this thing but I’d rather just talk about the closer "Ender". Dogleg shows a different side of their sound that this record could have benefitted from more of. The song starts off with a loud guitar section which then quickly silences to let Stoitsiadis get into the verse. This verse then has its own little guitar build up to the chorus giving off a post rock-esque vibe. This is all in about 50 seconds. Towards the middle of the song we get a true post rock bridge leading to the second half of the song. Dogleg exercise this loud/quiet dynamic extremely well. When the song comes to its close we are left with a beautiful string section that caps off the album perfectly leaving much to be desired and a thought that speaks, “these guys are just getting started.”
Melee is an incredible beginning for Dogleg. They are showing enormous amounts of potential already and have seamlessly dug their hooks into the punk community. Overall, they need to find a sound that defines them rather than past acts. They are more than capable of doing it. I loved quite a few moments on this thing but there were just some areas that need a little brushing up and reworking (lyrics mostly). One thing that’s for sure is Dogleg is going to be around for a good while by the sounds of it.