Release Date: October 11, 2011
In a world where most bands can be pigeonholed in to categories such as punk, metal, hard rock, blues, and so on, it’s refreshing to see a band like New Jersey’s Parlor Mob come along. The band’s follow-up to 2008’s And You Were A Crow is one of the most solid straight-ahead rock records I’ve heard all year. As many bands do with their second efforts, The Parlor Mob have retained some of the first CD’s sound, but have also branched out, showing a wide variety of musical influences on Dogs.
From the first listen, I was truly hooked on this CD and couldn’t turn it off, and after hearing most of the choruses the first time, I was singing along by the second time through. The songs are hook-laden, catchy, and most of them contain lyrics which we can all relate to and can interpret in many ways.
Dogs definitely shows that the band has roots in a Zeppelinesque blues-rock style, but the CD goes well beyond the Led Zeppelin comparisons. There are elements of indie rock, hard rock, progressive, and even some acoustic material on this record. I can hear The Flaming Lips, Audioslave, Rage Against the Machine, Kansas, and many more influences. The members of The Parlor Mob blend all of this together, and give us a truly unique, and extremely good, CD.
Vocally, Mark Melicia reminds me of a younger combination of Zach de la Rocha (Rage Against The Machine), Jeff Keith (Tesla), and Jamie Roe (Guardian/Adrian Gale), but he also has a sound that’s uniquely his. Over all, the vocals seem a bit more emotionally charged on Dogs than they do on And You Were a Crow.
Dogs starts out with “How It’s Going to Be”. The verses on this track seem a bit violent, but the chorus, to me, has an “I’ve given up, I’m done with this crap” vibe. Mark Melicia’s vocals on this song have the odd combo of influences I described above. Musically, it has the 90’s alternative vibe going for it. It almost brings to mind a cross between Pearl Jam and older Flaming Lips. Strange combination, yes, but that’s the feel I get from it.
Next up is “In To The Sun”, the band’s current single. This is a hard-driving, feel-good rocker that says “Yeah, things are hard, we’re struggling now…But we’re heading into the sun; we’ll come out of this on top”. It’s about not breaking down, not giving up when life kicks your butt and knocks you down. A very good choice as the first single.
Next up is “Fallback”. Crunchy guitars provided by Paul Ritchie and David Rosen, and a bit of a Red Hot Chili Peppers/Rage Against the Machine influence in the rhythm section of Anthony Chick (bass) and Sam Bey (drums) give this one a hard rock/funk feel. Lyrically, my guess is that it’s about a girl who’s a complete mess, and it’s finally time to tell her to grow up and get a clue.
“Practice In Patience” seems to be a song about a love that’s starting to come apart, but can still possibly be saved. Mark delivers one of the most emotionally stirring performances on the CD so far, turning this mostly acoustic track into an all-out power ballad minus a guitar solo. This track is, so far, Mark’s shining moment, and lets us know that he’s a voice all rock fans need to notice.
“American Dream” has a pop-punk feel to me musically. Lyrically, it’s something we can all relate to, especially in this economy. Pay attention to the lyrics, and you’ll see where I’m coming from on this. It’s all about the American dream and how it changes, slips away, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when we finally get it. Some very nice guitar work during the bridge of this track.
Next up is “I Want to See You”. Again, though a very cool song musically, it’s Mark’s vocals that steal the show on this track. To me, it seems to be about a relationship that’s stalled because one partner simply can’t figure out, or fix, the other one, but wants to very badly. Musically, it falls somewhere between classic melodic rock and mid-90’s alternative/modern rock.
“Hard Enough” seems to be about being away from the ones you love. I’m not sure if this was the purpose when the song was written, but I can see a lot of our soldiers serving in the Middle East really identifying with this one. Musically, it’s not heavy enough for active rock radio, but I can see most other formats picking it up and making it a huge hit if the band elects to put it out as a single. Again, the Jamie Roe (Guardian) vibe comes through strongly in the vocals.
“Cross Our Hearts” is a straight-ahead rocker that’ll have you driving the car just a little too fast, and singing along by the time the chorus hits. Finally, we’ve hit one that, though a great song, has me stumped on its meaning, if there is indeed one. Regardless, I love the track.
“Take What’s Mine” has a bit of a classic rock infused with Audioslave vibe going on. From this reviewer’s perspective, it says we need to either change our ways, or continue on with our selfish “me first” attitudes, and watch our country and world self-destruct. Musically, this is one of my favorites on the CD.
“Slip Through My Hands” is a very good, yet depressing, acoustic track. It seems to be about those times in life where it feels like everything you care about, everything you want or have worked for, just slips away…Part of you wants to give up on everything, but another part keeps you hanging on, just hoping your luck and life will turn around.
“Holding On”, musically, reminds me of The Smashing Pumpkins‘ “Disarm” with the way they incorporate the orchestral sections and its tempo. Vocally, it’s better than anything The Pumpkins could’ve ever done. It’s another one that seems to be about someone who’s lost everything, either through their own doing or someone else’s, and he keeps holding on, praying he gets back to where he was in life.
The closing track, “The Beginning”, has an orchestral opening, then becomes an all-out rocker. The style brings to mind some of Kansas‘s less commercial tracks, only a bit heavier. It seems to be about changing your life, and on a broader spectrum, your world, and bringing about a new beginning.
Perhaps I’m reading way too much into the meanings of these songs, or looking for something that the band doesn’t intend the listener to find. Regardless, the one thing I can say with certainty is that this is my pick as the best rock record of 2011. Mark’s vocals show more emotion than that of most of today’s vocalists. Musically, it’s the most diverse record I’ve heard this year. Of the 12 tracks on Dogs, there’s not a sub par song in the bunch. Dogs should be in every rock fan’s collection, whether you’re into emo, metal, melodic rock, alternative, classic rock, or any other style of rock music. This is most definitely worth the money.