Bow Wow

Hard Dog

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The year 1980 was prolific (two studio albums, one soundtrack, one solo album) but confusing for Japanese rockers Bow Wow, who had recently, inexplicably turned their backs on late-‘70s hard rock glory to embrace pedestrian pop music that only served to baffle fans and sacrifice precious career momentum for the group. But then, just as suddenly as they'd gone astray, 1981's amusingly named Hard Dog (a play on their barking mad moniker) appeared to signal the band's partial rehabilitation into the realm of hard rock -- nay, heavy metal, even -- with many of the peculiar sonic attributes and inevitably cornball evil posturing typical of the early '80s in tow. The flaming canine creature gracing the album's cover certainly suggested as much, and a couple of positively scorching six-string acrobatics -- "Fugitive" and "Gonna Be Alright" -- open the LP, which was then capped by the powerful closing tandem of "Close to the End" (a blatant homage to Kiss) and "I Know" (a slow march drenched in regal drama verging on Queen). Beyond these tunes, though, Bow Wow continued to swerve all over the musical map. They delivered a pair of punchy, hook-laden radio rockers in "Big Shot" and "Can't Take it Anymore" (both of them quite good within that style, actually), followed with the inevitable wimpy ballad in "Searching" (erm, not so much), then added to the general head-scratching with such genre-bending offerings as "My Dear Alarm Clock" (imagine a drunken Alice Cooper flirting with doo wop) and "Judas (In Blue)" (a slow-grooving "Wild Thing" update that did wind up growing on you). All this contributed to the enduring puzzlement of fans who were still hanging on to the band since the start, but at least Hard Dog showed vast improvement over recent efforts and set Bow Wow on the road to heavy rock recovery.