1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Fathoms Of Fire”

White Flag – Dog Detachment

Barriers - Dog Detachment

Barriers – Dog Detachment

The white flag is usually regarded as a sign of surrender and it is perhaps a little ironic that the song called ‘White Flag’ appeared on Dog Detachment’s final studio album ‘Barriers’. They had gone through the rough punk of ‘The Last Laugh’, the maturing, ‘Fathoms Of Fire’ and then they really pulled it all together in ‘Barriers’ probably their most commercial album. But sadly this was a barrier that they hit as there was to be no more from the band other than the essential Retro Fresh collection ‘Best Kept Secrets’.

‘White Flag’ combines the pop sensibilities they displayed on ‘Fathoms Of Fire’ but still shows their punk roots. Mike Adams had left the band and it was essentially the Armstrong brothers (Brian, Terry & Alan) who continued flying the (white) flag. They drafted in Sharon and Anne Armstrong (presumably their sisters) for backing vocals. It was just a pity that they were Armstrongs and the person leaving the band was Adams. If it had been the other way round they could have called themselves The Adams Family.

‘White Flag’ is a melancholic rock track with slightly ethereal vocals bringing a sort of darkness to the poppy guitar sound. Sharon and Anne’s vocal are reminiscent of some of the 80’s UK Indie bands like The Marine Girls, Talulah Gosh, early Bananarama and early Everything But The Girl. While the lyrics could be viewed as being about lost love and regrets, it could equally be about the demise of the band and their relationship with record labels. Lines like ‘Where did we go wrong, where did it all fall to pieces’ and ‘Your promises made, I know they’ll all empty’ would apply to both scenarios.

Either way, this track was one by a band maturing and showing great potential to go on to great things, but fame continued to elude the Dogs and they went their separate ways.

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

Video:

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:

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