Likened to early Replacements meeting with Johnny Thunders, the Dogmatics were very much a cult band on the Boston rock ‘n’ roll/power pop scene in the 80s. During their original run, they toured with Dinosaur Jr., The Bangles, Hoodoo Gurus, The Fleshtones and dozens of other well known rock bands. Tragedy struck in 1986 when bassist Paul O’Halloran died in a motorbike accident and with just two studio albums to their credit, the band called time on their short career. [A twenty track anthology, ‘1981-86’, brings together twenty Dogmatics recordings and is the ultimate primer for anyone unfamiliar with their work.]
The remaining band members have played live shows during the many years since then, but as far as new recordings were concerned, returning to the studio was never a priority. The band recorded a track for a Reducers tribute album in 2012 but, in the main, it always seemed like the Dogmatics’ legacy would be left back in the 1980s. That changed for good in 2019.
The title cut of the ‘She’s The One’ EP marks the band’s recorded return with a sharp and catchy pub rocker, full of choppy guitar lines topped with a guitar solo that carries a slight bar room country rock influence. Between the unfussy arrangement and a great, punchy production sound, this should still tick a lot of the right boxes for anyone that still loves good, old fashioned rock with a slight power pop tinge. While unmistakably the sound of Dogmatics, it gives fans a jaunty work out that sounds like a lot like a beefier tribute to Dave Edmunds before ‘I Love Rock N Roll’ crashes through with a slab of garage rock that is driven by the ghosts of Paul Revere and ? And The Mysterians. The way a swirling organ fleshes out the sound behind a relentless guitar riff gives a much stronger link with a 60s influence while a confident lead vocal barks through a simple but effective hook. The way the band reworks an older influence means it’s almost impossible to date this track; although recorded in 2019, it could just as easily be something from around the time Flamin’ Groovies recorded ‘Teenage Head’… If this doesn’t make you glad this band has returned, nothing will.
More of an acquired taste, ‘The Ballad of Wilbur Ross’ mixes the usual bar room rock with something rootsier. With the clanging guitars overlaid with a few mandolin noises, the Dogmatics take on a musical stance that occasionally sounds like a cross between Nat Freedberg and a raucous Wilco. It’s okay for what it is – even if it can’t quite decide on Celtic vs. Americana – since an assured vocal and strong hook are enough to see it through. With best intentions, though, it’s the weak link this time out and you’ll almost certainly have heard this kind of thing done better elsewhere. A cover of Unnatural Axe’s ‘Summertime’ sets things firmly back on track with something that sounds like an old Slim Dunlap banger – all twangy riffs, big drums and handclaps – and ‘Black Plastic Shoes’ (originally from ‘Rave On: A Tribute To The Reducers’) closes the EP with a full on blast of rockabilly raucousness where hefty 50s twangs are joined by a carefree, gravel-edged vocal. If you love the noisier end of rockabilly revival sounds or still reach for Rocket From The Crypt records with any regularity, this will become a firm favourite.
Comprising the first new Dogmatics recordings in over three decades, the ‘She’s The One’ EP provides a superb overview of the band’s talents and influences. Its blend of hard edged pub rock, garage rock and power pop influences create a few songs that are a fine addition to their legacy. If you’re a fan, you’ll definitely want this release – and if the Dogmatics had previously passed you by, this EP has every chance of making you a fan. Even with ‘Wilbur’ presenting a small wobble, it’s a great return.