My first-ever official album review was in the spring of 2008, shortly after the release of The Parlor Mob‘s debut, “And You Were a Crow.” I had been swooning over the New Jersey rock quintet’s classic rock styles for a few weeks, and knew it was obscure enough that the whole rest of the world hadn’t already reviewed it. It turns out to have been a fitting start to my life as a music blogger, because my basic mission has become to give the great unheard a better chance at being heard.
So now we come full circle, after I’ve opened many an ear to the likes of Archie Powell & the Exports, Frontier Ruckus, Ghost Power!!!, Gun Lake and many many other lesser-known artists I have a great passion for. The Parlor Mob recently released its long-awaited sophomore album, “Dogs,” and here I am once again having the opportunity to write about what’s so magnificent about this band, and possibly wording it more eloquently than I had back in my greener days.
However, this time I’m reviewing a very different Parlor Mob than the one that debuted in 2008. While “And You Were a Crow” sounded like something dredged straight from the 1970s, “Dogs” comes forth with a decidedly more modern rock sound, relying strongly on dramatic choruses and heavy chord progressions. In the instrumentation, you can still hear a lot of that early inspiration of hard rock, blues-rock and metal, but the melodies ring far more closely to the likes of Three Doors Down or, taking a step up in quality, Stroke 9.
Thankfully for the Parlor Mob, they’ve got the heartsick cries of vocalist Mark Melicia keeping it real. And the little hints of alt-country/roots-rock that surface every so often ensure that this band stands out of the crowd in its own way. It’s nice to hear a few songs that remain much more in line with the Parlor Mob I fell in love with, exemplified nicely on “Fall Back” and “Take What’s Mine.” The album closes out with a soft diversion into some very lovely (if simple) balladry followed finally by an arching epic titled, interestingly enough, “The Beginning.”
Is “Dogs” a more cohesive album than “And You Were a Crow”? Absolutely. There’s much more certainty and uniformity in the tracklist here than there was on the debut. Is the music better? From a technical standpoint, I’d say no. And also from my own standpoint, because when I consider the way I was affected by songs like “Angry Young Girl,” “Everything You’re Breathing For” and “Can’t Keep No Good Boy Down,” “And You Were a Crow” is unlikely to be outdone. That said, “Dogs” is an enjoyable album that Parlor Mob fans will appreciate and also has the ability to draw new fans who didn’t take much notice to them back when they started.