Young Dogs – Album Review / Show Preview

Coming to Regina this weekend is a collection of ambitious canines known as Young Dogs, featuring members from Australia (Ed Denton), Quebec (Vincent Letarte) and Regina ex-pats you might remember from Descalso (Paul Lucyk and Neil Robinson).

The band is blues-rock based, self described as a shroomy lovechild of Stevie Ray Vaughn and Led Zeppelin. There are many markers of this style evident right from the beginning of their self-titled EP including the tight unison riffing between the rhythm section in “Sea Shells.” There are also some distinctly un-bluesy moments such as the mid song shift to a section of the Dies Irae commonly found in the Catholic Mass for the Dead. The monks wrote some pretty trippy melodies but they definitely weren’t into the blues.

When it comes right down to it though, if I had to use one word to describe the sound of Young Dogs I would choose “Heineken”. Allow me to wander for a minute:

It was 2011 and I was travelling to see the Montreal Jazz Festival with the members of my jazz group The Whole Half Steps. We were young, in university and really stoked on modern traditional jazz.  Somehow (?!) we were staying over a week and seeing 10+ shows in our time there. The financial reality of it escapes me, but I do remember that we scored a killer deal on lodging by staying in McGill dorms just a little away from the festival and close to a grocery store.

When we went to the nearby Super-C we picked up various chicken fingers, breakfast items, and chicken fingers to sustain us for our time there. With Quebec being a magical land where we could buy beer in the grocery store, we were delighted to see a large display of Heineken on sale. Doing some quick math, we realized that per millilitre beer was cheaper than orange juice.

This story is going somewhere, trust me.

We drank a lot of Heineken that trip. It wasn’t smart because our dorm was in an old brick building and the temperature of our rooms was slightly hotter than Death Valley. The somewhat skunky smell of a freshly opened Heineken instantly transports me back to that summer and slightly turns my stomach as I think about my sweaty hands gripping another green glass bottle. I understand the joy of a Heineken and I don’t begrudge anyone who has one at the bar but I will never be able to enjoy a one again after that trip.

Almost at my metaphor, stay with me here.

Heineken has branded their beer very well as a party beer by sponsoring numerous music festivals while also plays up it’s “world-class” recipe and reputation. Heineken is a skillfully crafted beer for having a reckless good time.

I think in many ways Young Dogs parallel this. There’s a dexterity and tightness to the riffs that displays their ability as musicians. They aren’t shy to bring the volume down or let it explode outwards. At the same time the gritty tone favoured on the recording points to a reckless party atmosphere. The lyrical content is often sexual (“She Shells” and “Amnesia”) or generally violent (all of the previous songs as well “Never Lay a Finger on Me”). The band captures much of the mythos that one could find in “Hammer of the Gods” stories about Led Zeppelin and present it clearly.

With all the elements there Young Dogs is set up to be a party of a band – much like Heineken is a party of a beer. Yet my previous experience with Heineken has me reaching for a Boh or Pilsner first. I had a good time with Heineken then, but the thought of it doesn’t comfort me right now. I know Heineken is brewed with consideration and skill and it wants me to just have a good time…but I’m just not at a point where I want to join that ride. I don’t want to wake up with a hangover and I have some laundry to do. You have every right to enjoy Heineken if you do, and let’s get real here…I’m not going to turn down a free beer. If Young Dogs comes on the stereo I’m not turning the volume down either.

If you want to have a Heineken and watch Young Dogs you can do so either February 17th or 18th in Regina.


– Jon Neher


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