English Dogs - The Thing With Two Heads (Candlelight)

English crossover stalwarts return with a serviceable piece of thrash-punk goodness...
Release Date: 
27 Jul 2014 - 11:30pm

Another eighties band reforms. Are there any bands left that released an album during that decade that aren’t treading the boards again? Still, I guess if there’s a demand then why not? And English punk metallers English Dogs, who thought no-one cared about them, certainly found information to the contrary when three members of their ‘classic’ lineup  (that’s guitarist Gizz Butt, drummer Pinch and vocalist Adie Bailey, all of whom appear on this new release) recently toured the US – people wanted new music from the band, so here it is.

I must admit I winced a bit when I heard the news. The Dogs started up as members of the third wave of UK punk bands, following in the footsteps of acts like GBH, The Exploited and Discharge, and ran a nice line in oi-infused street punk for a while. But then, after the success of their 1985 album Forward Into Battle, which saw them adopt a far more metallic attitude, the band went the whole hog and released thrash-metal turkey Where Legend Began; For me the romance ended there in a sea of strained vocals and half baked quasi-Metallica epicry. The band returned sporadically over the next couple of decades in a variety of guises – some more punky than others, sometimes gratifyingly so – but when I heard this release mooted, with it’s mix of Forward… and …Legend the stated blueprint for recording, I feared the worst…

As it goes, I needn’t have worried, for most of The Thing… is tightly executed, sharp and not without charm, whilst being almost completely devoid of the over-indulgence that tripped the band up in the first place. The majority of songs here are well written and superbly arranged, getting their point across so well and with such brevity of effort that the band achieves more in three mintues per song than most bands working in the field can manage in tracks twice the length.  Opening track Turn Away From the Light is a case in point; Less than four minutes long, it crams in enough in that time to really draw the listener in, melding big gang chants on to Bailey’s slightly weak voice to great effect whilst Butt lives up to his reputation as something of an axe god with some tasty soloing on top of the crisp, thrashy riffage.

At times the band falls between two stools, always a trouble for any crossover act, and end up sounding as neither one thing or another. Freak Boy, for instance, starts out sounding like a serviceable piece of street punk a la GBH, before Butt takes over with a Dan Spitz Solo that, for these ears at least, simply muddies the waters a bit. Be one thing or the other!

Still, it’s a small complaint when you sit back and think what this album might have been, and I’m sure over the course of the next month or so I’ll grow to really appreciate everything on offer here. And I think you will too. Nice work, old punx!