1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the category “Dog Detachment”

Heartwheels And Mindmills – Dog Detchment

JDog Detchment

Dog Detachment

There was a 4 year hiatus between the brilliant ‘Fathoms Of Fire’ (Dog Detachment’s 2nd album) and ‘Barriers’, their equally brilliant 3rd and final studio album. In that time, they continued to refine their sound and move away from the raw punk of ‘The Last Laugh’ (their first album) towards a more refined rock.

‘Heartwheels And Mindmills’, despite its rather stange title, moves along at a good pace with a staccato guitar forming the spokes on the song, going round and round in your mind while Brian Armstrong’s vocals, at first soft and almost whispered, suddenly catch the wind and soar like the sails of a windmill on the chorus. There is something quite beautiful in this sound.

And yet not is all well, as the lyric ‘How can I hope when my heart is torn in two’ tells us. There is angst and pain in the vocals that try and make sense of loving another when still loving the one you’re with. This is not a new problem for mankind, in fact there is a similar theme running through Ballyhoo’s ‘Man On the Moon’ and Dog Detachment picked up on the way we argue in circles when trying to resolve the situation. Like Ballyhoo who sang ‘My heart turns my mind into circles’, Dog Detachment sing of hearts and minds and circular things like wheels and mills. Though not as commercially successful as Ballyhoo’s take on this quandary, ‘Heartmills And Mindmills’ is no less a song. It’s just as tuneful and has a great vocal. It should have received the same attention.

Where to find it:
Best Kept Secrets – Dog Detachment (2001) Retrofresh, freshcd115

Video:

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Waiting (For A Miracle) – Dog Detachment

Waiting (For A Miracle) - Dog Detachment

Waiting (For A Miracle) – Dog Detachment

After Dog Detchment announced themselves on 1983’s ‘The Last Laugh’ (having already released a few singles over the prior 3 years), we had to wait another 2 years for the glorious ‘Fathoms Of Fire’ to surface. While fans weren’t quite waiting for a miracle, they were possibly a little surprised at what did arrive. ‘Fathoms’ wasn’t quite as hectic and angry as its predecessor.

However, while they may have lost a few hardcore punk fans, they would have gained a whole lot of new fans who had not quite taken to the angry noise of punk. Songs like ‘Touch The Sky’ and ‘Cheri Amour’ started to get airplay along with the brilliant ‘Waiting (For A Miracle’.

Imagine, if you will, sitting outside on a warm summer night, the crickets reminding you that you are in Africa. From somewhere inside the house, someone plays a somewhat eerie melody on a piano. Then the guitars take over and the Armstong brothers (and Mike and Adam) suck you up into that great expanse of sky above the house with their vocals that sound close, yet somehow faraway. The guitars carry a floating melody, the bass booms an ominous beat and still that haunting piano keeps you attached to earth by the merest of threads. What bliss! This is otherworldy punk that you can travel on.

The song made number 15 on the 702 charts and was their only hit on any of the music radio stations in SA during the 80s. Perhaps the army is to blame, as the Armstrongs were called up just when they were really needed to promote the album. Perhaps the chorus of ‘Waiting for a change, waiting for a miracle to come’ scared a few at the SABC into not playing the song too much. Could that possible have been about looking for the end of apartheid?

Where to find it:
Best Kept Secrets – Dog Detachment (2001) Retrofresh, freshcd115

Video:

Moonrocker – Dog Detachment

Moonrocker – Dog Detachment (Brian, Terry & Alan Armstrong, but no Neil)

Best Kept Secrets by Dog Detachment

Best Kept Secrets by Dog Detachment

The year was MCMLXXXIII (okay so I was too lazy to translate the Roman numerals on the back of my copy of ‘The Last Laugh’, Dog Detachment’s debut album) and punk rock was on its way out, but no one bothered to inform Dog Detachment, and just as well otherwise we would not have had their angry, yet tuneful songs to enjoy.

The band had been around for a couple of years, playing at first simply as Dog, later adding the Detachment. They eventually signed to David Gresham’s record label and released the sublime ‘The Last Laugh’ which still stands as one of the great SA punk albums of all time.

The song starts with a cacophony of jungle noises, screams and an ominous humming guitar. From this, an echo-y, angry guitar emerges and soon you are into the venom-filled diatribe against disco music with a thrashy punk beat.

Unlike some punk bands, Dog Detachment managed to hold a tune and they do so to great effect on this essential South African track.

Where to find it:

The Last Laugh (1983) David Gresham Productions, NGC 1052

Best Kept Secrets (bonus MP3 on CD) (2001) Retrofresh, freshcd115

Lyrics:

I am fighting for survival
I am fighting for my life
I am fighting the forces of evil
The dreaded disco death, their programmed pallid flesh
The enemy

Blast-off
Mission time again, the countdown at 10, and counting
We’re going to fight for what we believe in
Outnumbered, but we know we’ll win tonight

So join the force, if you want to be a Moontrooper
So join the force if you want to be a startrooper
So join the force if you want to be a Moonrocker tonight!

I see some cretins crawl across my screen
But they don’t stand a chance
Invincible firepower, superior speed
They shake in fear
But I don’t hear
I exterminate

Fighting – we gain the upper hand, an invisible band of warriors
Justice has been done – we beat the disco scum
But there’ll be more
The reggae rot and the head banging hordes must die

(Written by Dog Detachment)

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