This is a review of "Hat Danko" recorded by Dugong. The review was written by Sam Saunders in 2003.
This is infectious, intelligent, tough music that thrills the hairs on your arms and tucks your granny up at night with a cup of something poisonous.
Matt Broadbent sings his heart straight into your front room, out through the back kitchen door and away down the alley. Guitars are pulsing and clanging and singing in all the ways that guitars do best. The bass sounds like a fat boy on speed and Andrew Jarvis is the drummer you wish your band had.
What a good opener we have in "Honest Industry". Subtly modulated noise and feedback, two drum beats: then a huge and wonderful guitar riff takes us into a classically edgy pop song that competes with the best. It's genre defying stuff, and it sets the sonic tone for a rich and varied album of mature and challenging music. It could sit alongside Steven Malkmus, Cursive, The Ruts, Joe Jackson, Green Day or Blink 182 and say "now then you bastards, listen to this!"
"Tonight this is perfect" is. It reminds me of the urgency of early Jam. "Vital Loop has that bass and guitar shoving match that people call "angular", but in this case it's also rich harmonically - and it gets a huge lift when the distortion rock guitar screams away like Stuart Adamson before Big Country sapped his punk energy.
We have ten songs all-told, averaging just over the four minutes. But none of them hang about for a spare bar. Every song has new ideas and the album keeps loads of surprises to look forward to. "Vital Loop" swaps tender guy/psycho guy in a dizzyingly brilliant way.
"Human Fade" has guitar chords that give me goose bumps. I can imagine the euphoria of hearing the playback for the first time. That "YES!" moment that tells you you're doing the right thing. I read that the band were quite pleased with the sound they got from Soundstation Studios in Hornbury. Too bloody right. Everyone else had better form a queue. I didn't spend a single moment listening to the "mix" or the "production" and that's exactly as it should be. The music communicates in a direct and invisible way. Perfect.
And then, six more great titles. Among them "The More Rivers You Cross The More You Know About Rivers" and "Snakes! Why did it Have to be Snakes?" And the songs are as good as the titles. When tempos change or keys spin off in unexpected ways it's only ever because the song demands it.
And the more I listen the more I'm loving it. This is innovative music with a sense of direction. It's modern sounding without being weird and it's expressive, not just expressing.