THE DOGS D’AMOUR: the state we’re in (Kumibeat Records, 1984)
An euphoric power pop riff, a chorus that could have been written by Slade in 1972 had Slade been a little less ham-fisted, and we’re diving head first into the what could have been the definitive glam punk statement of the 80s. Unfortunately, it was marred by the most abysmal production job in history.
Like the opener ‘How Do You Fall In Love Again’, most of the album’s first half are in-your-face glam hits with catchy hooks in all the right places. ‘How Do You Fall In Love Again’ was released as a single and promo video. Nobody took notice. Have a look and tell me they don‘t look super cool.
As for the production: to turn out a muffled mess like this is almost an achievement in its own right, even by 1984 amateur standards. If you can get past it – and boy, will you have to try – you’re bound to discover a lost treasure and masterpiece, the unknown soldier of glam punk. In fact, it’s so obscure that I yet have to meet a person who ever saw the original vinyl record. It was put out by a Finnish label called Kumibeat, whose only release it remained. Kumibeat went bankrupt shortly after and thus spared the world a planned 7” single by local hardcore punk troupe Maaseudun Tylevaisuus.
‘Don’t Ask Me To Say I Love You’ sounds like something Keith Richards might have sung on an early 70s Stones record, and for ‘All About You’, I imagine the band miming on Top Of The Pops circa 1972 with multicoloured balloons swirling around a dancing crowd of platform-heeled teenyboppers. There’s a lot of Faces in here, but the boys add a subterranean dandyness as they drunkenly stagger the line between lad rock and glam.
‘The State I’m In’, a wasted ballad remniscent of Let It Bleed era Stones, is the track I probably like the least, if only because the drums have that big, compressed 80s quality that strikes me as even more ludicrous given the lousy recording.
“I wanna make love to you in an elevator later, I wanna get drunk with you like there’s no tomorrow”, lyricises a young Tyla clumsily. See, that’s the difference between the Dogs d’Amour and a cock rock band like Aerosmith: women are not faceless items to stick your cock in, they’re drinking buddies first and foremost. Tyla would expand on such drunk male-female Bukowskisms on later releases, ceaselessly invoking alcohol as the greatest equalizer of all.
Sometimes, tacky 80s keyboards accentuate the choruses. Rumours are that the producer overdubbed these against the band’s will, and consequently the 2003 CD reissue is keyboard-free, although the overall sound quality remains shitty as ever. To be honest, I like the keyboards because they neatly put the music in a time context. With keyboards, the band sound like a bunch of glam obsessed punks in the mid 80s. Sans keyboards, they just sound like glam obsessed punks at any point in history.
‘Heroine’ is the absolute stand-out track. It starts off innocently enough with a psychedelic motif reminiscent of early Marc Bolan, but as the song gains structure to a pulsating beat, Tyla’s voice feels increasingly desperate and tortured as it pierces its way under your skin. Despite the bad mix, ‘Heroine’ is so intense the music almost becomes tangible. I dare you to find another glam band capable of writing such an intimate, soulful song. Too bad they converted it into somewhat of a power ballad when re-recording it for Straight??!! (1990), but not even that could ruin a composition of this much substance.
With its Ramones, Dictators and surf references, ‘Wired and Wide Awake’ is notable for being the only track to make use of (stereo) typical Johnny Thunders lead guitar action. Elsewhere, the band unfold a specifically English glam punk style creating a universe all of their own. In the process, the Dogs d’Amour come across as so natural and authentically wasted, they make Hanoi Rocks look like a bunch of tryhards.
While there were certainly faster and harder bands at the time, the Dogs’ attitude and realness makes them punk as fuck. At the same time, it’s the only Dogs d’Amour album I would call glam without reservations.
Lead guitarist Dave Kusworth, who later left to form the Jacobites with Nikki Sudden, wasn’t a forming member of the Dogs d’Amour, so it’s hard to say how much creative input he had into these songs. The album does appear to walk a middle ground between Tyla’s sleaze rock and Kusworth’s lazy ‘gypsy’ rock, yet without ever getting as dozy as The Jacobites.
After four years of bad luck, The Dogs d’Amour would come back a different band in 1988, releasing In The Dynamite Jet Saloon and some fairly successful singles such as ‘How Come It Never Rains‘. They would become much more professional, and therefore perhaps ‘better’ in the conventional sense. Tyla’s voice became rougher and more whiskey-soaked, and his alcoholic Bukowski fixation sometimes manifested itself in borderline Joe Cockerisms. As much as I like In The Dynamite Jet Saloon, I much prefer the punkish youthfulness and immediacy of this debut.
The Dogs shot another promo clip for ‘The State We’re In’ – check it out below.