Kerbdog
Dublin Academy
8th December 2012

A couple of weeks ago Kerbdog performed their 2nd album ‘On the Turn’ in its entirety to celebrate the 15th year anniversary of its release. Louder Than War were there to witness it and Dave Kavanagh took the pic. 

There was a period in the early nineties when Ireland produced a string of alternative rock bands that managed to make an impact outside our little Island. Bands like Therapy?, Ash, the Hitchers, and Kerbdog managed to amass a considerable following,  getting airplay on UK stations, features in magazines, and playing decent sized venues.

Taking their cue from bands like Sugar, Husker Du, Pixies and Sonic Youth, Kerbdog were one of our better exports. The type of band that you loved to see getting inches in Kerrang, or Metal Hammer, just a few years older than the teenagers they were so popular with, they were about the only band to come anywhere near our rural hometown. They have remained since in the hearts of those who came of age in the late nineties.

After their well received self titled debut, the band headed to LA to record the follow up with well known producer GGGarth at the helm. In a move that could never happen in the current climate, the band managed to clock up a huge recording bill, somewhere in the region of €1 million. The end result was great, a gem of a record. But realistically recouping the recording bill was going to be a huge task. To make the money spent on it back, they would need to sell an excessive amount. It’s unclear why it didn’t do the business at the time; most that have the album love it. One thing was certain, they couldn’t continue as Kerbdog for much longer. They simply owed too much money. It peaked at 64 in the UK charts, and the band split shortly after when the record company decided to delete their back catalogue.

 

When the band split, Cormac and Darragh formed Wilt, pursuing that Bob Mould / Sugar influence a little further with material that aired more on the poppier side.  Their first album ‘Bastinado’ was a classic slice of guitar pop and garnered them plenty of airplay, and enough interest to allow for a 2nd album. Follow up ‘My Medicine’ didn’t seem to get the same push as the debut, both albums were excellent, but didn’t perform as expected. Their future was uncertain, and they had to call it a day all over again. Lead man Cormac Battle went on to have a successful career in media, working for the national broadcaster RTE where he brings his infectious enthusiasm to his Sunday night radio show ‘The Battle Axe’.

Like so many bands from that era that were forced into calling it a day, Kerbdog reformed quietly to play a few sporadic gigs with no promise of new material. Despite a break of a couple of years, those gigs in 2005 were excellent. I remember a particularly hectic performance in Cork’s Nancy Spains a few years back being a highlight. This year saw the rerelease of their two studio albums, and now these current shows are being recorded for a live album to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the release of ‘On the Turn’.

 

Tonight the band opens with the title track from that album with Darragh Butler beating living hell out of the drums. Cormac tells us he talks too much for his day job so he’ll be sparing us banter tonight. Starting as it does it’s clear were not going to get them in the order they appear on the album, a move to be applauded, as it leaves the crowd in anticipation of what’s coming next. ‘Mexican Wave’ a highlight on the album is here too, moving from quiet moments to head rattling louder ones which get the mosh-pit going immediately. We’re lucky in Dublin to be getting the last of the gigs being recorded for the album. The band sound well rehearsed, and really tight. The atmosphere of the gig is celebratory, and jovial. ‘Lesser Shelf’ gets its first airing since it was belted out in a Los Angeles studio all those years ago, as does an excellent sounding ‘Sorry for the Record’, and later ‘Pointless’.

Three singles from the debut are played alongside the album tracks from ‘On the Turn’, the first of which is 3rd single ‘Dry Riser’. I can still remember hearing this for the first time on 2FM’s ‘Beatbox’, and talking about it endlessly the following day on the miserable Monday morning bus journey to school. It’s followed by their first release, a brilliant run through of ‘Earthworks’. The rest of the tracks from ‘On the Turn’ are delivered pristinely, the band are sharp, and Cormac and Colin (Fennelly) are animated throughout, skipping around the stage exchanging smiles, and gestures of regard with the audience.

‘Sally’ is a great album opener and is saved tonight till closer to the end, sounding as blissful and as vital as it did on release. Powerful and melodic, this is the type of idiosyncratic alternative pop / metal that the band does best. It sounds fantastic, and I’m sure the Dublin version will make the live album.

For the encore we’re treated to the third single from the debut, ‘End of Green’, and the aforementioned ‘Pointless’. That’s followed by the unmistakeable heavy guitar into of ‘JJ’s Song’. Sounding frantic and intense it closes the set, a euphoric crowd singing along. It’s an enthusiastic performance from the off, and is maintained for the duration. People have travelled the length and breadth of Ireland to hear them tonight and as people file into the streets after, the reaction is overwhelmingly positive.

Kerbdog’s is another story about how things didn’t work out as they should have, a band who deserved to be as big as their ambition. Tonight though is testimony to the impact they made.  Although ‘OTT’ didn’t set the world alight with sales, the band has been vindicated by the record’s continued influence. 15 years later it still sounds fresh, and vivacious. Tonight is a also vindication as a near capacity audience sing at the top of their voices, clearly revelling in hearing these tracks live. They might have not released anything in a while, but the band has taken these shows seriously, they are well rehearsed, and pour their heart into the show.  This isn’t about nostalgia, but proves that these songs still sound crucial, and the band is as good as they were when ‘On the Turn’ was first released.

The live album is going to be selected from dates over the last couple of months, but they could release the Dublin show as the album, and it would be perfect. For now, the band has no intention of releasing new material, but this year saw has seen the rerelease of both studio albums, and at least, for now, we have a new live album to look forward too.

Kerbdogs website is http://www.kerbdog.com/” target=”_blank”>here.

Cormac Battle’s website can be found here.

Galway – Roisin Dubh 2nd March 2013
Dundalk – Spirit Store 9th March 2013
Limerick – Dolans 16th March 2013

All words by Ray Burke, photo by Dave Kavanagh. More of Ray’s Louder Than War writing can be found at his author archive here

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