Dogs in the Fight – We Want Peace But Are Ready For War
By Andy Bookwalter
Great Oi! songs are not complicated. Mid-tempo punk rock, heavy drums, and choruses you can sing back at the band while covered in beer and other people’s sweat or shout at the start of soccer games, space to yell “Oi! Oi! Oi!” in between verses, and lyrics about working, drinking, class struggle, more drinking, and punching.
If a punk song makes you feel a little better (or worse but in a better way) about how in the hell you ended up where you are then it’s probably a good Oi! song. Also not complicated: shortbread. But good shortbread is damn hard to make.
Example #1: Sham 69, “If The Kids Are United”
Before we go further, a disclaimer: I’ve known Clark from Dogs in the Fight for about 35 years. In junior high he was the first person i ever saw that wasn’t a TV character to have a Mohawk. In early 80’s Issaquah one did not disavow Journey lightly, but as far as I know Clark never looked back. It didn’t hurt that Clark was a big guy, but still. In high school Clark formed The Braindead, a hardcore-turned crossover thrash turned metal band that’s still together to this day. I still have my cassette copy of the Braindead’s 1987 demo Pure Evil, purchased from Clark late one night at the Eastgate Denny’s, where all punk rock tapes were bought and sold back then. Occasionally I still dig it out and look at it, because who still has a tape deck?
Clark moved to Boise a few years ago, making practice tricky, but they still play once in a while. He’s clearly too old to play guitar in a punk band, but then I’m way too old to write about punk bands in exchange for CDs, so here we are.
Back to Dogs in the Fight. The CD, sort of clumsily titled We Want Peace But Are Ready For War gets right into it with “Dogs in the Fight” and “Working Class Salute”. Things slow down just a bit for “Hold Fast”, but slow is a relative term; this isn’t shoegazer. Maybe bootgazer? (Andy invents a word!) Don’t worry, we’re back in the pit with “No Apologies,” “Break the Silence,” and “Head Held High.”
“United” is probably the Oi-est (another new word) track on here, with a strong connection to 80’s and 90’s street punk like The Bruisers or early Dropkick Murphys. It’s one of the best tracks on this record, (and not just because of the kicky bass solo). “Protect and Serve,” “Weight of the World,? and “Ballot of the Damned” follow the Oi! formula with great results.
This is a fantastic record overall. Nothing too complicated, just great working class punk, from a city that still has a working class. Cool stuff is happening in Boise.