Album Review: Underdog – ‘Ether Dome’.

Overpowered and under produced, this is Underdog’s first full fat album. This aint ‘I’m too cool for clean so I’ve gone lo-fi chic’, it’s more ‘I gotta slap-heavy slab of a raw sound, and it’s your job to sit and chew through it’. And chew through we do, with its rough ready mess that sits high in the red, this is no place for polish or gloss. It’s as barbed as it is spiked and mean and gratuitous in all of its coarse presentation.  

And so often this goes the wrong way. How many times has that DIY sound been as bad as the weak songs beneath? But not this show, not here and not now, and that’s in spite of their artwork and name (I’m sorry Underdog, maybe). These are gluttonous fuck-hungry scum covered tracks that live muscle-bound, wire-tight and lean.

Guitars pinch and clash like it’s late ’78, the bass lurks on by like a stalk of low grind, drums beat their job pure and simple. Over the top is a rasp of a voice that competes for its volume and guts. That voice regularly clips as it hits at its peak and it adds to that live thirsty feel.

‘Suzie My Dear‘ is a post Stooges crack with slick runs that thump the track through. ‘Muscle Car‘ is as strong as the Johnny Thunders live shows that are still being drip-fed to fans. ‘There Goes The Neighbourhood‘ has the petulant ‘tude of garage bands in mum’s basement, and spits out the home grown recording. Whoever these punks are from Boston, Massachusetts, they’ve nailed down that live for dirt sound.

Are there low points? The closest is almost. Every so often the sound quality dips from what I assume is snatched session recordings. At these points the ears take some time to adjust but the bones of the songs stay intact. And as we shuffle through decades of tough-wrung guitar bands, we’re thrown back to throwbacks and stalwarts. Sometimes there’s the gam of Joan Jett, or the sly push on bass of Ron Ashton, sometimes we teeter oh-so dangerously close to the sound of a Darkness style parody. But not once do we slip that far down. It’s a tiptoe that’s constantly played with. This had me splashing a mess in my kitchen and I’ve rarely scrubbed dishes so vigorous.