There’s a line on the press release that came with “In Vino Veritas”, that frankly shocked me: “2018 is the 35th anniversary of The Dogs D’Amour,” It said. Then I thought about it. It really was the late 1980s where I bought an album called “In The Dynamite Jet Saloon” that showed me a different way.
A way that said you could dress like Faster Pussycat, but didn’t have to sound like them, a way that said you could put poetry to rock n roll, and a way that showed me that not everything great had to come from America (in fact Tyla, the bands frontman didn’t live far from me, in Wolverhampton). And a little later on with their “Graveyard Of Empty Bottles” record they – along with Springsteen’s “Nebraska” – showed me that acoustic music could rule too.
It’s their first album for a while too – 13 years apparently since “Let Sleeping Dogs…” came out – and there’s always thought when one of your favourite bands releases something after so long: what’s it going to be like? I hope it doesn’t suck.
After about 15 seconds of the opener “111” there’s a throaty “huh!” and the thing changes gear – and you just know – you just know – that the boy Pallas, is back, baby.
By the time that one is done he’s also come out with the genuine classic line: “I’ve got a paranoid psychiatrist, he’s got it in for both of me” and its pretty damn obvious that this one of the great Dogs albums.
“Black Confetti” (helpfully rhymed with “razor sharp machete”) is the kind of world-weary balladry – but always with the guitars turned up loud – that DD at their best always did, and the saxophone solo here is just perfect.
“Bloodline” comes in with the same bassline as “Ballroom Blitz” and the man at the back as a matter of fact, “likes me wine” like some folky troubadour, a theme he continues in the next song too. “Bottle Of Red” drenched in sax. Timeless rock n roll in the vein of “The River” album, or “Dancing In The Moonlight”, it sees Tyla at his perky best at the end: “I might have to manage a bit of pinot grigio, though, if there’s none left….” He offers to no one in particular.
“Everything To Me” has some gorgeous organ to go with its loose-limbed Stones-type guitar, “Chicago Typewriter” is a little more urgent, as befits a track that begins with machine gun fire and sirens, while “I Don’t Love Anyone” is basically the sound of Tyla’s career bottled in three minutes. A little like The Quireboys, but with that voice, the one that only Tyla has and no one can copy. It is just perfect.
The title track is a big old ballad, a brilliant one too, “Monster” has a kind of jazz flavour, not too far from the work of Urban Voodoo Machine – the harmonica adding a touch of desperation – while “Movie Star” sees him dusting off the playbook of his early career and emerging with something that both embraces the past and celebrates the present.
“In Vino Veritas” (and I am no Latin Scholar, so relied on wiki for this, so it may be bullshit) means “In Wine Lies The Truth”. Whether that’s the case, as a teetotaller I couldn’t say. What I do know is this very possibly the best Dog’s D’Amour album since “Straight?!” in 1990 – and that is surely something we can all raise a toast to.
TYLA’S DOGS D’AMOUR
“In Vino Veritas”
Album Review by
To those who thought that the Dogs D’Amour had had their day, it might just be time to think again and raise your glass to this new release which finds much life left in the old Dog yet.
Life goes full circle. Writing this review, I realised that I had first got into the Dogs D’Amour in 1989 as a result of reading a review of ‘A Graveyard of Empty Bottles’. For anyone unfamiliar with this, it was a limited edition 10” semi-acoustic EP recorded before many bigger rock acts went down the MTV Unplugged route. From the moment I put the stylus down on the vinyl and I heard the opening track ‘I Think It’s Love Again’ (my favourite Dogs track to this day), I began what is an almost 30 year journey with the drunken melodies of the Dogs D’Amour; first going back to the previous year’s release, ‘In the Dynamite Jet Saloon’, then forward through the rest of their “classic” period and Tyla’s later solo career. His level of activity as a solo artist, and in collaboration with others, is frightening and unmatched by most other artists living or dead. Often providing new songs in both electric and acoustic versions and new takes on old friends, he has recorded over 40 studio albums and at least 6 live albums during this period. While I have grown with this sound as it has evolved and listen regularly to much of this output, it’s quite different from the Dogs’ classic material, as were the albums which he released under the Dogs D’Amour name after their split. And it has not been to all fans’ tastes. So, how does this latest incarnation, timed to mark 35 years of the Dogs D’Amour, sound?
Seriously good, well beyond expectations and, in some places, magical.
While not quite going full circle musically, it’s got as much as you could hope for. Brooding bass lines, chunky guitars and solid drumming underpin Tyla’s characteristic wine-soaked growl as he delivers song after song driven by memorable sing-a-long choruses with retro backing vocals, clean guitar solos, moody sax breaks and piano. Make no mistake, this is the closest that we’ve had to the classic Dogs’ sound in years, but, dare I say it, updated and a bit maturer. Credit is due to the band – Gary Pennick (guitar), Matty James Cassidy (bass) and Simon Hanson (drums) who have previously played in the Tyla J. Pallas Band, but who sound like a band rejuvenated and have collectively made this into something different and altogether rockier. Yes, this is not the classic line-up, and there will be those who will say this shouldn’t be called a Dogs’ album. But, the world moves on and there is much here for fans of classic-era Dogs, of Tyla’s solo material and even for new fans, some of whom might not have been born when the band were at their peak.
Album opener ‘111’ dispels any doubts about the album’s rockier intentions and brings a sense of urgency to the proceedings, driving the listener on a journey of songs which manage to sound both like new instant classics and vintage favourites at the same time, through to the memorable and even frenzied rocking out of the closing track, ‘Movie Star’. In between there are many highlights with new songs which can hold their own with our respective Dogs’ favourites. From the brooding and atmospheric single ‘Black Confetti’, which set the standard for this album release, to ‘Bottle of Red’ – an infectious and rousing drinking song for the wine generation if ever there was one, the beautifully sentimental and outstanding ‘Everything to Me’ and ‘I Don’t Love Anyone’ to the haunting title track ‘In Vino Veritas’ and the late night blues of ‘Monster’. This is not to detract from ‘Bloodline’ and ‘Chicago Typewriter’ – strong rock songs in their own right, but some songs grabbed me quicker than others. While this is very much a full-on electric album, some fans may wonder if the material also works acoustically. Given my introduction to the Dogs, this was one of my first thoughts. Early evidence in the form of an acoustic version of ‘Bottle of Red’ on the ‘Black Confetti’ EP and an acoustic video of ‘I Don’t Love Anyone’ recorded during the Pledge campaign would say a resounding “yes”.
Street poet, balladeer, troubadour … Tyla has been called many things, but to me he is and will remain the master of the drunken love song – a tradition which I’m glad to say he has managed to continue here with his band of willing cohorts while producing a rock album that should appeal to all ages.
Impressed, much. Recommended, highly.
Time to raise my glass.
In Vino Veritas will be released on 16 November, with album release gigs at The Fulford Arms, York, on 8 December and Bannerman’s, Edinburgh, on 13 December. Get a ticket before they’re gone.