For some years, one of the most popular gigging bands in Auckland were Fire For Glory, but having been through some line-up changes they decided to have a reset. I saw them play as FFG, but the next time I saw the same four guys they were Stray Dogs and having signed to AAA Records we now have their debut album under the new name. They have re-recorded some old material, brought in new, and even invited some guests in singer Red from Finger Tight and hip-hop artist Swizl Jager. Josh Pinho (vocals), Cameron Brookes (guitar), Grant Kirkpatrick (drums) and Steve Shyu (bass) produce some of the most vibrant live performances around, and their gigs are always an absolute blast and loads of fun, but could they capture this in the studio?
The phased guitars bring us into opener “Stray Dogs”, then Josh gives us the opening lines while Grant just uses the kick drum, Cam picks out single notes and Steve has a rest, and then we are off into the bouncing groove of emo party punk rock. The second verse commences with no guitar, showing a great use of space while Josh shows he is not only one of the finest frontmen on the circuit, but he can really sing as well. This is infectious stuff, and the only thing one can do is bounce while smiling at the same time, yet there are also plenty of sections in a song which is only three minutes long. “Life of the Party” was originally released under the old name back in 2021 and has long been a live favourite and rightly so as it is a solid groove from beginning to end. These two tracks were the first two singles released ahead of the album, and are a great introduction, but the guys know there is a need to provide pace throughout and “Ko Koe Taku Ukaipo” shows just that, allowing for a breather while also bringing in some Te Reo. They also undertake something unusual on this release in that halfway through we get “Phantoms Ghost and Monsters”, and the album ends with “Mariko”, both featuring Swizl. I wonder how many reviewers actually listen to everything all the way through and realise it is actually the same song, just one with English lyrics and one Te Reo? It is quite a bit slower, allowing the band to drop the tempo and for Josh to really shine. Swizl is building a reputation for adding great texture to rock and metal bands, having done the same with Shepherd’s Reign, and it certainly changes the impact.
This is an album for those who wish we were back in the days when Blink 182 and Sum 41 ruled the roost, while The Offspring were also in the charts, and is a solid slab of infectious pop punk bangers from beginning to end. They have managed to capture their essence on the album and hopefully this means they will soon be more recognised than just in their hometown. If this doesn’t get you to move and smile then you are already dead.