Dogs Die in Hot Cars, with Phoenix and Longview

Every review of Dogs Die in Hot Cars invariably mentions two things: 1) This Scottish quintet is the worst-named band since Butt Trumpet; and 2) its debut album, Please Describe Yourself, sounds a hell of a lot like a lost XTC record. This second point is particularly vexing. How does lead singer Craig McIntosh manage to ape XTC main man Andy Partridge's oddly punctuated delivery so closely? Partridge seemed to share a distinction with his new-wave classmates David Byrne and Elvis Costello: a voice that is instantly recognizable and nearly impossible to nail down. These Scots certainly disprove that theory, though listening to this record only makes me want to whip out my copy of Skylarking and listen to the real deal.

Musically, the manic hooks in these songs match the obtuse lyrics, and the mix of frantically strummed guitars and playful keyboard flourishes keeps the pace moving. Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley (Madness, Dexy's Midnight Runners) produced the record, though you'll find few overtly "retro" elements; the music itself is at once ear-catchingly inventive and firmly rooted in the quirk-pop tradition. Perhaps younger listeners, whose only experience with XTC has been limited to Mandy Moore's cover of "Senses Working Overtime," will find something to love in these songs. For the rest of us, the prehash still sounds better than the rehash.

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