On the back cover of their new CD, Dog Men Poets list the artists who inspired each of the disc’s 10 tracks. The roster, which runs from Stevie Wonder to George Clinton to Amy Winehouse to Robert Randolph, is pretty impeccable.
When you factor in the SA quartet’s formidable musicianship and undeniable drive, it’s little wonder that they’ve opened for arena acts such as Fall Out Boy and Black Eyed Peas, and that their local following is just this side of rabid.
The downside to Dog Men Poets has always been their weakness for juvenile humor, most notably with the self-explanatory “Milf,” from 2004’s Birth of the Cool; and a smug, pseudo-profound, self-important vibe that can probably be pinned on vocalist Michael Brouillet’s roots in slam poetry.
On Perspective Vol. 1, DMP get serious, even melancholy at times, and the blue mood suits them. The album opens with two of their best-ever tracks: “Sister Sister,” a plea for family peace that’s genuinely soulful, and “Inspired,” a lithe, jazzy ode to the power of a muse.
Even on the latter track, Brouillet gets a bit pompous (“I’m inspired by eclectic conversations/and intellectual confrontations”) and can’t resist mentioning his indie-film writing and acting experience. But the mournful “Say Ray” and self-critical “Easy” find him pushing past the limitations of his Anthony Kiedis-like voice. Elsewhere, the hard-rock psychedelia of “One in a Million” allows guitarist G-Smiles to showcase his serious fret mastery, and “Six Song Rotation” gets in a few worthy, if obvious, shots at radio programmers.
The ride is not always so smooth. The most off-putting track, “Black Magic,” is a detour into frat-boy hell, and “Voodoo Papa” isn’t much better. But Perspective Vol. 1 finds this wildly diverse band-without-a-genre taking a step into what feels like maturity.