Sound: Given the fact that I have been a massive Mr. Bungle fan for the past few decades, I'm a little flabbergasted that I never heard more about the band Dog Fashion Disco. Reviewing the experimental Baltimore group's latest compilation Beating A Dead Horse To DeathAgain, I drew comparisons immediately to Mr. Bungle in a good number of the tracks. Dog Fashion Disco, who formed in 1996 and disbanded in 2007, have called Mr. Bungle a major musical influence and you could say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And in this particular case, Dog Fashion Disco did an amazingly good job of creating some truly fascinating, disturbing, and, yes, circus-like music throughout their time together.
From the opening track Baby Satan (which actually feels like a hybrid of Faith No More and Mr. Bungle) to the joke demos that finish out Beating A Dead Horse To DeathAgain, it's a wild ride. There's a feast of distorted, evil-sounding guitar hooks (Day of the Dead) and plenty of circus keyboard effects (9-5 At The Morgue), but it doesn't account for every song. The band often shows it's sensitive side as well, specifically in the song Gardenia (taken from the 2004 EP Day of the Dead). It almost has a cool New Wave vibe throughout the intro, and it's one of the few tracks that showcases Todd Smith's cleaner vocal style for the good part of it.
If you haven't heard much from either Mr. Bungle or Dog Fashion Disco, don't jump to conclusions by just looking at the over-the-top song titles. Both groups tend to poke fun at commonly serious subjects (in this CD's case, Satan is often a theme), but there is serious tongue in cheek action in this case. That approach is found in most of their musical stages, whether during their live show at WXRX, their featured demos, or any of the other recordings they chose for the compilation. Also included are covers of Billy Idol's Rebel Yell and The Melvins' Anaconda, with the latter song transforming into a much darker version than the original. Definitely take a look at the amusing liner notes as well. The band mentions that Anaconda features some of the dumbest lyrics in the history of rock and roll (Candlebox included). They pretty much had me sold from that comment alone.
The last few joke demos originally recorded during the Adultery CD sessions are absolutely worth a listen, even if they have the roughest quality among the bunch. They're raw in production and ooze sarcasm, but you can't help but at least crack a smile when Smith breaks out into laughter - several times. Both poke fun at homosexuality, so those of you offended by such a topic should know in advance. But if you're a fan of South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone, you must take a listen to Turning Gay. If you didn't know it was featured song on the CD, you would swear it came from a Parker/Stone movie or TV show. // 9
Lyrics: It was mentioned that a lot of the songs are tongue in cheek, but they still have penned some pretty intense lyrics. The best example comes in Worm In A Dog's Heart in which Smith sings, You are a worm in a dog's heart; A newborn mongoloid child; Operating at great speeds; Covered in Vaseline and immaculate skin; And fantastic pigmentation. There is nothing generic or mundane about any of the lyrics on the CD, and it's a fascinating trip just hearing what they'll say next. // 9
Overall Impression: If you're a Mr. Bungle fan, it is somewhat hard to not think about Mike Patton and the boys while listening to Dog Fashion Disco. That being said, Beating A Dead HorseAgain can absolutely stand on it's own, and I'm pretty sad that the band decided to call it quits not too long ago. There are songs that take twists in turns tempo-wise, and Smith's chameleon-like vocals have an amazing way of changing the mood. If you like the ordinary, Dog Fashion Disco might not be the band for you. But if crave a little craziness/scariness in your music every once in a while, check out Beating A Dead HorseAgain. // 9