Sunday, September 8, 2013

SPAZ reviews DOG TRUMPET's Medicated Spirits!



For a quick rundown on Dog Trumpet, please see my earlier post about them HERE.

         For over 35 years, Reg Mombassa and Peter O'Doherty have been creating some of the most distinctive music in Australian history.  While they were two-fifths of Australian legends Mental As Anything from 1976 to 2000, they were crucial to that band's success. Martin Plaza (guitar and vocals) and Greedy Smith (keyboards and vocals) may have been in the spotlight a bit more, but Reg's slide guitar and Peter's inventive bass playing helped to create and fuel the Mental's unique sound.  The fact that Reg and Peter wrote plenty of songs for the band only solidified their standing as two of Australia's premiere talents.  When The Mentals went on hiatus at the end of the '80s, Reg and Peter formed Dog Trumpet. Their debut album, Two Heads One Brain (1991), continued in the Mentals tradition of expertly produced Roots Rook/Pop.  The Mentals got back on track in the mid '90s but that didn't stop Dog Trumpet from releasing their next album, Suitcase, in 1996.  Reg and Pete left Mental As Anything in 2000 in order to focus on Dog Trumpet and their art projects.  The duo released three more albums from 2002 to 2010 (Dog Trumpet, Antisocial Tendencies and River Of Flowers), all of which were gloriously unique and inspiring. 

Now, three years on from River Of Flowers, Reg and Peter have released their masterpiece - Medicated Spirits.

While it's not entirely different from their last few albums, the duo have come up with their finest batch of songs to date and released in as a double album... on two CDs! It doesn't get much better than this, to be honest.  19 songs and every one of them a gem. Reg and Peter don't just write Pop songs - they paint aural pictures that they fill in with different shades, colors and genres. But with that being said, the tracks are still very earthy and warm. The charm in Dog Trumpet's music is that there is such beauty in their simplicity.  Dog Trumpet sound like no one else and that is a rarity in this day and age. The album is awash with acoustic instruments and delicious harmonies that offer up an almost magical feel to each track. This isn't music created to shift units - it is music that connects with the listener on many different levels.  Shifting units is just a plus. Fans of Alt-Country, Pop, Rock 'n' Roll, Blues and Folk would do themselves a favor by clicking on one of the links above and buying Medicated Spirits immediately


     The album's opener, the instrumental "Elizabethan", is similar in spirit and style to some of Paul McCartney's early '70s instrumental pieces on the McCartney album. Yes, it's that good.  

     "Speed Of Light" kicks things up a notch with it's heavy fuzz bass and Psychedelic Folk groove. Peter's affinity for Psych-influenced melodies is immediately apparent here.  

     Reg's "Made In The World" is a catchy Blues/Folk ditty with a keen Pop sense to it  You will find yourself singing this track to yourself and your friends for weeks afterwards (and MY friends can verify because that's just what I've been doing since I first played the album!)

      "Bored Wife" has been one of my favorite Dog Trumpet songs since it appeared on an EP two decades ago.  They've re-recorded it for this project and it has lost none of it's emotive power in this new updated version.  It is touching and melancholic, although a bit more raw and loose.  

     "Ray Davies And The Kinks" sounds nothing like Ray Davies and The Kinks although the lyrics paint a glorious picture of a road trip listening to Ray and the boys, and that is just as fun.  More Muswell Hillbillies than Kinda Kinks, its a track that will earn repeated listenings on your next road trip.  Who needs Ray when you have Reg?

     "Methylated Spirit" has a wonderful hook that is accented by some fantastic harmony vocals that sound almost other-worldly. 

     "What Falls Away" is a splendid Pop song from top to bottom.  Again, the backing vocals really help make the song the perfectly constructed recording that it is. 

     "Camel Rock" features fantastic lead vocals by band member Bernie Hayes, a performance that now has me trying to track down his two solo albums. Hayes gave a stellar vocal performance on "Bloomsbury Birds" from their album Antisocial Tendencies as well.  

     "Broke In Many Parts", "Tell Me" and "Moon And Star" have some of the prettiest melodies that Peter has written.

     While they don't sound like old Mentals recordings, songs like "Telegraph Pole" and "Arriving At The End" wouldn't sound out of place on their albums Get Wet and Espresso Bongo

     I could go on and talk about every single track on the album, but my goal here is to inspire you to run out and buy Medicated Spirits, not to bore you with my personal love affair with this double disc delight.  Dog Trumpet have recorded the best album of their career thus far as well as one of the best albums of the year.  Not bad for a couple of fellas who've been doing this for nearly 40 years... not bad at all!

Peace, love and puppies,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

No comments: