Dogs Die In Hot Cars
Please Describe Yourself
henever I slag off bands because they have crap lyrics, I’m usually met by the response “You shouldn’t be listening to the lyrics”. However, no matter how many times I’m told this, I don’t think it’ll ever hit home quite as hard as it does while listening to this record.
Let’s rewind to a few months ago, when Dogs Die In Hot Cars hit the top 40 with the single “Godhopping”. I got rather excited, and with good reason. “Godhopping” is a fantastic song, rammed with jaunty piano lines, xylophone tinkles, organ parps, vocal howlings and goodness knows what else, careening out of control towards its eventual dizzy climax, flopping exhausted across the line in a mess of indecipherable vocals and agreeable quirkiness.
And there’s the problem. Please Describe Yourself is ‘agreeably quirky’. It’s Private Eye magazine, it’s The Beautiful South (more on that later), it’s a panel game featuring Dave Gorman and Dominic Holland, it’s Alistair McGowan, it’s newsreaders jokingly referring to ‘bling-bling’, it’s Jools Holland introducing Ludacris.
Dogs Die In Hot Cars, on this evidence, don’t do much beyond sort of pointing at popular culture and going “Aaaah!” When it’s not looking, they might stick their tongues out. “Somewhat Off The Way” clods along so slowly you could be listening to Keane/Coldplay/Travis/The Stereophonics (delete according to which does least for you). When the refrain “I’m gonna do what I said I’d do at school, and be the one who says ‘Hey, this ain’t so hard, and it’s kinda cool’” comes in, you may as well be. And then “Celebrity Sanctum” sees the singer declaring his love (ironically, obviously) for various female celebrities, but then—aha! Aha!—the chorus cleverly revealing that “All I want is someone that will come home”. I’m really not in the mood to discuss album closer “Glimpse At The Good Life”, so let’s just say that it contains the line “Where would we be / Without pilates,” AND YES, HIS TONGUE IS QUITE PROBABLY IN HIS CHEEK.
Now, I know I shouldn’t be listening for the lyrics. The problem is that Dogs Die In Hot Cars are not giving you the effing option. They think they’re funny and clever and witty. They aren’t. What they are is a band from Fife whose sense of suburban have-not-ness goes tearing through Please Describe Yourself like a toothache, as they proceed to make hideously lame jokes about camping (“Let the foot and the mouth prevail if it means I can sleep”), secondary school (“I know nothing, can not think / What is the difference between iron and zinc?”), celebrity culture, and, inevitably, girls (“I Love You Cause I Have To”—you see? There’s fucking incisiveness for you).
Then there’s the singer’s voice, which, at its worst, manages to get all the kinks and gargles of Kevin Rowland and Andy Partridge yet somehow comes out as being distinctly charmless due to the petty and cynical nature of the lyrics he’s delivering most of the time. Superficially having ‘fun’ yet somehow… not. And he sounds so irritatingly pleased with these lyrics all the time, as though he’s seen the world cos he’s got Brass Eye on DVD.
And you know the really annoying thing? Dogs Die In Hot Cars are actually a really good band with incredibly catchy tunes. When they try getting a bit slow the results need a severe degree of death by stun gun, but when they let themselves go, you can’t think of many bands who can hold a candle to them. “Godhopping” is still one of the best things to have troubled the chart this year. Get past the dodgy title and singer man’s bizarre conviction that “Green are my eyes” is a lyric worthy of being sung repeatedly over the end of the song and “I Love You Cause I Have To” is as well. Musically, if not lyrically, the Dogs know their shit—“Lounger” fizzes along like no-one’s business, guitar on super-jangle and piano set to hyper-jaunty. Even when they’re being annoying, they can usually manage to knock out a really catchy bit somewhere, and, at the very least, almost always come up with a really good chorus. The guitarist, bassist, drummer and keyboardist always sound bright and inventive, and the singer, for all his flaws, can knock up some decent harmonies too (the chorus of “Modern Woman” being a prime example).
But as an album, Please Describe Yourself has a frustratingly flimsy feel to it, that of a band that think they’re much better than they really are. Then again, this is their first effort, and it does contain enough genuinely enjoyable moments to keep you interested. Here’s hoping that maybe they’ll leave behind their petty smugness and push themselves a bit more next time.