Kerbdog Congregation (Graphite)
No-one ever said that the music industry was fair. Ask Kerbdog, a young Irish quartet tipped for superstardom in the mid ‘90s, who had the bad luck to release their supposed ‘breakthrough’ album, 1997’s On The Turn, at a point when major record companies had shifted their emphasis from rock groups to Britpop and boy bands. In a just world, On The Turn would have made the Kilkenny youngsters superstars: in reality it left them 1.2 million quid in debt to their record company, cost them their friendship with guitarist Billy Dalton, who walked out during the recording of the record, and signalled the beginning of the end for the band. Oops.
The signs had been so promising. Influenced largely by the abrasive sound of underground America – artists on the SST, Touch & Go, Amphetamine Reptile and Dischord labels – the quartet recorded a brace of demos in 1992 which convinced no fewer than 22 record companies that Kerbdog were stars of the future. The band ultimately signed with Vertigo Records, choosing Jack Endino, the man who had helmed the recording sessions for Nirvana’s Bleach, to produce their fine self-titled debut album. When that album’s final single, Dummy Crusher, dented the UK Top 40, everything seemed to be set up perfectly for album number two. The band duly decamped to Los Angeles to work with producer GGGarth Richardson (Rage Against The Machine/The Jesus Lizard)…and then things started to go askew.
In the wake of their dissolution however, the band belatedly developed a cult following, with artists such as Biffy Clyro, Frank Turner and Reuben hailing them as key influences. Congregation, then, feels like an over-due recognition of what might have been, and indeed a vindication for those - not least the band themselves - who believed all along. Recorded at sold-out live shows in Dublin, London and Bristol in 2012, its sixteen songs sound thrillingly alive, visceral and crushing, beefed up by the return of original guitarist Billy Dalton. In front of passionate, charged and vocal crowds, the likes of JJ’s Song, Sally and Mexican Wave finally sound like the hit singles they always should have been, while the likes of Severed and Pledge are winning attempts to marry the brute force of Metallica’s ‘Black Album’ with the more nuanced dynamics of My Bloody Valentine or Sonic Youth. Truthfully, Kerbdog have never sounded sharper, heavier or more focussed.
Intriguingly then, Congregation ends with a nod towards the future. Recently selected as a TeamRock Radio Breakfast Show Single of the Week, Electricity, a new studio recording exhumed from a 2001 demo session, is an excellent fusion of driving alt.rock guitars and sugar-sweet melodicism, which calls to mind Bob Mould’s brilliant post-Husker Du act Sugar. Whether it’s simply a footnote to a spirited and triumphant comeback or a signpost for a third album proper, it presents a convincing argument for this reunion transcending simple nostalgia. Perhaps every ‘Dog does have its day.
Kerbdog play the UK and Ireland next month. See the quartet at:
Nov 14 Dublin, The Academy
Nov 15 Manchester, The Ritz
Nov 16 London, The Forum
Nov 17 Bristol, Bierkeller
Nov 18 Plymouth, The Hub
Nov 19 Southampton, Talking Heads
Nov 20 Birmingham, The Oobleck
Nov 21 Nottingham, Rock City Basement
Nov 22 Glasgow, Ivory Blacks (Sold out)