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Review: 'SONGDOG'

-  Album: 'HAIKU' -  Label: 'EVANGELINE'
-  Genre: 'Alt/Country' -  Release Date: 'JANUARY 2003'

Our Rating:
With a few notable exceptions - Michael Weston King and Grand Drive spring to mind - UK singer/ songwriters have previously failed to make significant, credible excursions into Alt.Country/ Alt.Folk.

SONGDOG, though, are a magnificent exception to this rule. Bizarrely, they hail from Blackwood, South Wales, although a more different band from their neighbours (and a lifelong obsession of mine) the Manic Street Preachers would be hard to find. But then, little is what it seems in Songdog's gripping, but surreal world.

Sadly, I missed their 2001 debut "The Way Of The World", but I shall be backtracking fast. In the interim, Songdog have kept busy, supporting the likes of The Handsome Family and Lift To Experience, but their work has a similarly singular quality. Indeed, while Songdog may not have the deserts of New Mexico or the plains of Texas to draw on, it seems the council estates, HMVs and hot-dog stands of Glamorgan will do just as nicely.

From the off, it's obvious singer/songwriter Lyndon Morgans is something special. His protagonist in the opening "She Hangs In The Dark Like A Saint In A Cathedral" shows his affection for his lover by hanging together from a bridge. "How would it be if we let go, cos I will if you will," coos Morgans pinched, but distinctive voice, provocatively.

Over the course of the next 11 tunes, Songdog are practically unbeatable. They are an unholy alliance of "Twin Town" attitude, Super Furries surreality and American Music Club's sinister, beaten sparsenes and they shoot it all through with an X-rated frustrated sexuality that would have Har Mar Superstar running to the hills after the merest twang of his Y-fronts.

Morgan' narratives usually unfold slowly and carefully, with the emphasis placed on Karl Woodward's Nick Drake-style guitar picking and the crucial colourings fron third member Dave Paterson. The pace picks up on only two occasions: the nihilism-with-a-hard on tale of "So The Lord Sent Chantal" stretches out into a lovely groove and "Party Frock" sets up an ominous crescendo reminiscent of Tindersticks at their most animated. But in truth, it's the slower, stark frameworks of the rest that couch the outrageous minutiae in Morgans' weirdly inspired observations.

Virtually everything in this vein is memorable, but if forced into cherry picking, I'd probably plump for "Haiku" itself, with its' wonderful, Ed Hamell-style lyric (e.g: "I saw that cocksucker Carson, I used to have the hots for his sexy French wife"); or the utterly sparse'n'deadpan "The Girl On The Escalator At HMV" - which recalls American Music Club circa "United Kingdom" - and the closing "She Played Piano (On The Brothel Piano)", which actually lives up to its' title.

"Haiku" is an outrageously compelling listen and one that, er, pricks and teases the voyeur in us all. Wanting further instalments is probably not healthy, but you will in spite of yourself. Songdog demand your attention when they come to your town. I wouldn't point them towards either sharp objects or sex shops, though.
  author: TIM PEACOCK

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