Magadog return with their sophomore set, and what a difference a grade makes. Tighter than yore, boasting better songs and improved arrangements, there's every sign that the band have graduated to new levels of composition and musicianship, with the brass showing particular improvement. Regardless of the set's tempos that are upbeat and thoroughly danceable, DUI-N-I has a wonderfully laid-back feel to it, perhaps reflecting the band's Floridian origins. Even outright skankers like the romance goes wrong "Semi-Sweet" and "Happily Stupid," which gleefully acclaims that love is idiotically blissful, have an almost easygoing air, while the New Orleans jazz flavored "Movie Buff" for all its gala atmosphere has a relaxed good-time glow. Only the exhilarating "This Hearse Needs an Oil Change" breaks out into a fuller frenzy. Although still Two Tone based, the band do wander musically further afield. "Free Again," for example, is arranged ska style, but boasts doo wop-ish vocals, while "So Much" strays straight into soul territory. In contrast, "Knickers in a Twist" counterpoints jazz-fired brass solos with surfy lead guitar, an axe styling that also pops up in the intro to the rollicking "Hearse." Counter-intuitively, though, "Pipeline" is not the surf classic, but the band's own composition, though it still features some scintillating picked guitar. On "Log" the group move into culture and the roots reggae realm, perhaps inspired by "Dr. Dread." This can only be the RAS labelhead of the same moniker who, according to the latter song, accompanied at least one of the bands to Jamaica.
Like the artists he's signed, Dread feels passionately not just about reggae, but the state of the island, and by extension the larger world, and his eye-opening tour of Kingston left the doggies stunned and disoriented. It did not however, turn them into a more conscious band, for only "Log" and "Border Patrol" are culturally themed. But it was a start, and who knows where it will lead. In the meantime, Magadog have sharpened their sound and tightened their playing, offering up a fine album that still leaves a bit of room to grow, but with plenty of upbeat songs flush with trad elements to keep their fans abuzz.