To this extent it is difficult to understand why Rose thinks this album has anything to do with rock and roll. His phrasing, tone, and predeliction for intricacy all betray any ties to rock music, not to mention obvious things like the lack of lyrics and regular rhythms. Rose's playing sort of rambles along: it sometimes mumbles and sometimes explodes with clarity and memorable melodies, but it never dissolves into pure improvisation. On "Calais to Dover," which originally appeared on Kensington Blues in an abbreviated form, Rose often falls into introspective movements where quickly fingered rhythms acquire a wave-like quality, rolling as they do in splashes of force and emphasis. His focus is mostly rhythmic throughout the piece and though clear melodies exist, rhythm nevertheless asserts itself as the primary element, forcing the ear to listen for metered patterns instead of melodic or harmonic ones. This song is far and away the best piece on the record and it is arguably its center. "Cathedral et Chartres," also from Kensington Blues, isn't half as long as "Calais to Dover" and runs only a fraction of the time that "Sundogs" does. It is more pastoral and gentle than either tune and, in some ways, occupies its place on the record only to provide relief between the two extremes found on the other songs.
If this album's title is to have any meaning whatsoever, it is to be found somewhere on "Sundogs," the album's final song. It's a 20-plus minute, high-pitched drone apparently extracted from one or more of Rose's guitars. It is cold, steely, and a little frightening with little variation. It provides practically no insight into what Rose might be doing and is generally mystifying from start to finish. There are audible coughs on the recording and it isn't difficult to imagine a few confused and perturbed audience members shuffling about, wondering what it is that Rose is trying to accomplish. In fact, I feel this way listening to the recording. It serves up dark introspection and creeping dread in massive doses, but is the complete antithesis of everything else on the record. Sounding like the complete obliteration of everything Rose has done in the last few years, "Sundogs" is both enjoyable and a little frustrating. Whether or not Rose is signalling a new beginning or simply throwing his listeners something different is up for debate. One thing is clear: if Jack Rose thinks he's playing rock and roll, it's because he's thinking about McDowell and Dylan and what happened when they decided to plug in and change their approach a little.
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