Slaughter & the Dogs: Forever Heavyweight Rock and Roll
Some bands labor for years, trying to forge a sound that shakes up the status quo. Some bands like Slaughter and the Dogs simply explode like the Big Bang right from the get-go, helping change the course of history. By gigging with the Sex Pistols in 1976, releasing the first independent single in Manchester, and forging a street-punk template indebted to 1970s icon Mick Ronson (who joined them on occasion) guitar bravado, they burned hard and fast, then duly departed.
They were unruly, tough, and bristling with chops. As such, they influenced everyone from writer Stewart Home, who named a punk theory book after the lacerating tune “Cranked Up Really High” to, yes, the Stone Roses, who chose engineer Martin Hannett because he worked with the Dogs. Even if punk died by 1979, tunes like “Boston Babies” would be stellar, brash, and formidable as any first-generation punk cut.
Whereas the cantankerous Clash avidly sang “No Beatles, Elvis, or Rolling Stones/ in 1977,” the Dogs avoided that rush to judgment and burn-the-playbook musical campaign; instead, they fished for oldies left and right, re-purposing tunes with potent aplomb. Most fiery is their revved-up New York Dolls revisitation “Who Are the Mystery Girls?”; it might not have the sexual-renegade swagger of David Johansen, but definitely burns with bombast all the same. Their most iconic cover, though, is the stupendous “Quick Joey Small” (a favorite of glam-rockers Dogs D’Amour and NYC punks Trick Babys too), the obscure1960s garage-romper by the manufactured ‘super-group’ Kasenetz-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus, released as the Dogs' fourth single, in 1978. The original is kitschy and wonky, but the Dogs' version is a torch of Mod-rockish vibes and street-punk flare, proving their ability to absorb the past without damaging their own goods.
For years, the band was maligned as “typically tasteless, musically crude” (hmm, the very definition of rock and roll from Elvis and Chuck Berry on?) by critics, yet their muscular, gritty tunes carry the heavy weight of rock and roll born of factory towns, singalong pubs, and surging football terraces. Their much misunderstood and miscast tune “Where Have All the Boot Boys Gone?” is not a call for goons to rise up, it’s a tough sentimental tune about football fans of days past.
Plus, the band’s churning, abrasive version of Velvet Underground’s “White Light White Heat,” reveals plenty about their sensibilities. They might have been scooped up in the Oi! revelry and rivalry, but their roots are more Diamond Dogs than Doc Martens. Luckily, every few years they tour, showering the hopeful modern masses with the Dogs' year-zero saliva, so look forward to tuneful snarls and unfussy revivalism.
Slaughter and the Dogs perform Sunday, June 28 at Fitzgerald's with special guests Modfag, the Killer Hearts and the Velostacks. Doors open at 7 p.m.