Midnight Dogs are an electrifying five-piece led by Rob Cass, a singer who channels Mick Jagger, Iggy and Axl into a compact frame that hurtles around the stage like a human Pin Ball. On stage the band sweat and strut and the music pours from the speakers in an endless stream. The big question was whether they could make a record that could match the power of their endlessly energetic performances. Over a year in the making, The Midnight Dogs’ self-titled LP is a blazing ride and, remarkably, the band more than succeeded in bottling their lightning making this one of the most vigorous, old-school blues ‘n’ roll albums you’ll hear.
‘Down ‘n’ dirty’ does exactly what it says on the tin with some seriously nasty riffs putting the sleaze of vintage guns ‘n’ roses into the stinging blues of Buddy Guy and shaking the whole thing up until it fizzes over into a chorus so addictive you’ll be in rehab before you can shift it. This is the Midnight Dogs that takes the stage and makes it their bitch, all nervous energy and rock ‘n’ roll spirit and it translates surprisingly well to record. Keeping that bluesy energy flowing, ‘Let them bleed’ has a title that references the Stones and an attitude that casts a knowing glance towards Iggy Pop, singer Rob Cass sweating and shaking all over the place as the band wail on their instruments with impressive precision. John Paul’s thunderous drums announces the arrival of the suave ‘scars’, a track built around Steve Wonderwood’s snaking bass line before the band head off into the swaggering blues of ‘Lucy’. The first half of the record ends on a high with the fifties rock of ‘let love rule’ coming across as a nitrous-powered version of the shadows and you half expect to open your eyes and find yourself in an American Diner surrounded by jiving teenagers and vanilla milkshakes. It’s an album highlight and one to which you’ll return time and again.
The second half of the album takes things down a notch with the rich acoustic track ‘hands of fate’ recalling nothing so much as Soul Asylum, Rob doing his best Dave Pirner over a musical backing that sounds like a combination of the aforementioned alternative act and the Stones on ‘stripped’. The latter album also informs the gentle lament of ‘just goodbye’ with its big drums and acoustic strumming adding to an air of sweet regret. Happily, the band get things pumping again with the rock ‘n’ blues of ‘hotel mango’, a sweeping slab of Americana that leads into the album’s undisputed classic, ‘only rock ‘n’ roll can save my soul’, a live favourite that never fails to set the audience on fire. It’s chucking-out time and the bar is dry for the album closer, ‘Yesterday’s smile’. It brings the shades down on a fine record and leaves the listener more than ready to enter into the whiskey-fuelled world of the Midnight Dogs once again.
This self-titled effort from the Midnight Dogs is the culmination of a huge amount of work and it shows. Many of the tracks were honed on the live stage and they crackle with electricity. The production does as good a job of capturing the band’s raw spirit as is possible and the result is an album that overflows with the very soul of rock ‘n’ roll. The only slight criticism that can be levelled at the record is that the sequencing oddly places two of the three quiet songs on the record next to one another and all three in the second half, leading to a slightly unbalanced feel, but, if this is the only criticism you can find about an album, it’s clear that it’s a fine effort indeed. Honest, exciting and beautifully played, Midnight Dogs have exceeded the lofty expectations raised by the stage show and delivered an album of anthems-in-the-making and if you’re a fan of blues-infused rock ‘n’ roll, then this is the album for you. 8