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November 2011 sees the release of ‘Unruly Dogs’, a short story and illustrated concept album about the exploits of two time traveling Victorian gents who journey to modern day London Town to re-inject some vim into their increasingly vimless existences. As a collection of songs this is a pure pop rollercoaster that at once makes perfect sense whilst never coming across as anything other than barking mad. Deeply English at its core and echoing elements of ‘The Village Green Preservation Society’ era Kinks in its ethos, the album nonetheless draws in artists and influences from far and wide.
‘Big City Lips’ kicks things off in fist pumpingly hooky fashion, harking back to a simpler time when indie anthems wore their colours loud and proud - unafraid to drink Jack Daniels from the bottle in full view of waiting paparazzi. It's the kind of track Primal Scream meant to write for ‘Give Out But Don't Give Up’ but were too busy trying to work out who should be in their next line up to find the time.
After the cocaine high of the curtain raiser, ‘Lost Dog’ opens a window to the albums more reflective side. Coming on like the illegitimate offspring of a mid-70's ELO/Supertramp/10cc threeway, our protagonists pine for the love of the mistress who’s locked them outside for bad behaviour.
Some Anglo-Hispanic-Krautpop here (‘Sweaty Wiv You’s’ libidinous enticements onto the dancefloor), a sprinkling of Beck meets Bernard Sumner there (‘I’ll Bite You’), … and you soon get the idea that this is not a record that is going to lie down and play nice for the sake of easy classification. Yet if the soul of the album can be found anywhere it is in tracks like ‘Freaky Weather’ and ‘Walking The Dog’ (along with the aforementioned ‘Lost Dog’). Out of place and out of step with the modern world, these are songs that simmer with a similar sense of displacement and loss as Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ or ‘The Good The Bad And The Queen’. Unlike Major Tom or many of the characters in Albarn’s work however, Unruly Dogs never forget to have fun while they search for the answers to their questions.
So this is part one of the Unruly Dogs journey, and classic indie pop insanity it is too. When and where the gentlemen will adventure to next is anybody's guess.