I’m not sure what you’ve been told, but Dogs Die in Hot Cars sound nothing like Franz Ferdinand, The Futureheads or French Kicks. You may, however, have heard that they sound like XTC, which is an understatement, to say the least. Please Describe Yourself, DDIHC’s debut, sounds so much like the work of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding that you’d be easily fooled into believing these songs are Oranges and Lemons outtakes.
And this is my problem in approaching this album objectively. As much as I want to shy away from the XTC comparisons, it’s nearly impossible. Lead singer Craig Macintosh is a dead ringer for Partridge, right down to the slightest affectation, which begs the question: is it natural or manufactured? That, I can’t say. I can say, however, that whatever the case, the band consciously made an effort to have the music match, as many of the songs on Please Describe Yourself share similarities with XTC classics like “Towers of London,” “Mayor of Simpleton” and “Senses Working Overtime.” But it only seems to be the singles, in this case. While “Modern Woman” and “Celebrity Sanctum” (which name drops Catherine Zeta-Jones) could have been plucked right off of Black Sea or Mummer, there’s very little here resembling the abrasive post-punk of Drums and Wires or the tightly wound new wave of White Music.
Though this buildup of Dogs Die in Hot Cars’ similarities to their British post-punk forebears may sound like a criticism, it’s not, really. Dogs Die in Hot Cars are a splendid pop group who just happen to share much in common with their heroes. And aside from XTC, you can also add Big Country and Dexy’s Midnight Runners to that list of heroes. DDIHC seem to have a proclivity for the “big” sound of the eighties, and had they injected their music with a little more Celtic influence, you could probably throw the Waterboys up there as well. “Godhopping” screams “’80s Flashback Weekend,” mixing a near-Madness delivery with a riff that belongs on an Oingo Boingo b-side. And if I didn’t know any better, I’d say that “Paul Newman’s Eyes” was a lost new wave hit, locked away in Richard Blade’s vault.
The one song that doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest, interestingly enough, is the single, “I Love You `Cause I Have To,” which is, more or less, ska without the horns. And, again, that’s not a bad thing. Blame it on their Scottishness, but DDIHC pull it off surprisingly well, erasing any vestige of cynicism. But like I said, it’s an odd fit considering the rest of the material. And it’s the first song on the album, which may be a strange teaser for those expecting more English Beat than Big Country.
Dogs Die in Hot Cars are a catchy band. They’re also a quite good band. But they’re not a remarkably original one, which can be forgiven, as their take on “big” British sounds is rather charming. If they know what’s good for `em, Dogs Die in Hot Cars will take another cue from XTC and challenge themselves into pursuing new and interesting approaches with each new album.
XTC – Oranges and Lemons
Big Country – The Crossing
Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Too Rye-Ay
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.