Slaughter & the Dogs

Barking Up the Right Tree

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Slaughter & the Dogs were one of the first punk rock bands on the English scene in 1976, even appearing on the earliest scene compilation, Live at the Roxy. Slaughter may not have been as good as Buzzcocks, Clash, Pistols, Damned, Adverts, Generation X, Wire, the transplanted Saints, or others, but like all of the original punk outfits who hit the boards before it became fashionable to do so, they still left behind a sensational, classic, must-have single in their debut "Cranked Up Really High," b/w "The Bitch." A string of lesser, but still quite fun, rocking punk LPs and singles followed. Effective hoarse-shouter singer Wayne Barrett and guitarist Mick Rossi revived the band 20 years later with a new rhythm section, taking advantage of the wave of punk nostalgia to play big shows. This 1996 London one is pretty good, but in comparison to their salad days, it's just not very important. The band doesn't bite anywhere near as hard as in the '70s, lacking original bassist Howard Bates and drummer Mad Muffet (or Muffet's better replacement, Phil Rowland). New drummer Noel Kay lays back too much and fails to push them with the gusto his predecessors did. That aside, however, hearing 1996 versions of "The Bitch," "Cranked," "Boston Babies," "Where Have All the Boot Boys Gone," "I'm Mad," and "You're Ready Now" reminds that their place in punk history is a fond one. Most of all, Barking made me smile all over again over Barrett's still neighborly, mush-mouthed, happy singing style. His continued triumph here (and Rossi's best riffs) reminds of punk's lasting revelation: That even those of modest talent, especially vocalists, could still become great if they had buckets of attitude and enough ability to manufacture their own singular personality and style.

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