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Slaughter and the Dogs

"We're getting the band back together!" Ever since the Blues Brothers uttered those accursed words 20 years ago, countless aging rockers have tried the world's patience by demanding an extra 15 minutes and re-forming for one last paycheck. While the occasional reunion disc fires on all cylinders (like the Damned's newest, Grave Disorder), the public is usually forced to suffer through lemons that wobble off the lot, then break down on the freeway five minutes later. Neither hot rod nor junk heap, original-wave U.K. punk rockers Slaughter and the Dogs build on their shadowy past with a platter of pub rock that veers in and out of relevance for 11 songs before wrecking on the last lap.

The opening track, "Saturday Night 'Til Sunday Morning," is a raucous street-punk anthem with hot guitar licks that recall Slaughter and the Dog's old '77 comrades the Jam. Unfortunately, the second tune, "Welcome to Our Town," kills the buzz with a plodding toast to settling down and raising rug rats. While you'd expect somber tripe like this from Sting, it's inexcusable from any kind of punk-rock band. With these two cuts opening the record, no one should be surprised that there's also a song called "Schizophrenic." Hilarious odes to phone sex ("I Got Your Number") are interspersed with tedious, just-say-no cautionary tales ("Blow"). The one old tune rerecorded here, 1981's "Hell in New York," is the envy of every Nostradamus freak worldwide with its tale of "skyscrapers burning" shouted over a bruising Stooges guitar riff. With this perfect bit of '80s nihilism turned into 21st-century reality, it's par for the course that Beware Of... closes with a power ballad titled "Anthem for the Kids." But the track that best sums up this outing is "Message from a Ghost." While Slaughter and the Dogs may no longer be the "legends" you've heard of but never heard, Beware Of... has enough merit to keep your 401(k) out of Alien Ant Farms.

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Tom Bowker

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