I only ever visited Providence, Rhode Island, once; for the briefest of times, when driving from New York up to Provincetown (on Cape Cod) for a rather wonderful winter holiday. We stopped for a lunch break, and I had the first of many clam chowders during that memorable holiday. I remember it to this day because it was the first time our baby son was able to sit in a high chair at the table and, because of this, Providence has been a place that has resonated with me more than somewhere I’ve only spent a couple of hours in perhaps should.
That was in 2007, by which time the band Urdog had already been and gone… a band that has also passed into the annals of time, to the extent that I certainly had not been previously aware of them before Johnny and Chris from Rocket Recordings brought them to my attention. They were formed in Providence (hence my story) in 2003, and lasted only three years; a veritable lunch stop in terms of the history of music… yet one that deserves to be recollected and dwelt upon.
You can read the full story of how Rocket have come to release this retrospective on vinyl here, and I am very glad that they did because this is an absolute gem of a collection which deserves a much wider audience.
When I was trying to think about how to describe Urdog’s music I got to thinking about another more recent, fleeting, occurrence; the appearance of the monolith in Utah. And although the mystery around it has since been somewhat debunked, I thought of it in relation to this collection of tracks not just because of its solid and intense nature; but because of the timelessness of the music here.
If you were just given this without the ‘2003-2006’ attached to I think you might have been hard pressed to date it. It certainly doesn’t feel out of place as a contemporary release, certainly amongst the sort of music I cover. It also feels like it could be carbon dated back to the early 1970s, with its West coast folk/ kraut/ Velvet Underground influences. There is also a punk aesthetic that is running through this that could be placed anywhere along the Stooges/ Pistols/ Sonic Youth/ hardcore continuum, not exactly a lofi/ DIY vibe but somehow meandering through all these many and varied musical influences.
It’s hard to put your finger on, but it sounds to me like a collection of musicians who did not really feel as if they had anything to prove, but wanted to put something down that would matter; paying no attention to the prevailing mores of the day. And this is why it sounds so fresh and urgent to contemporary minds… not ahead or of it’s time, but out of time… like the monolith: just there, waiting to be discovered.
What we have here then is a collection of tracks that are in one sense eclectic, and yet also have a common thread to them. As a set they sit within the annals of underground music which you can be with, listen to and just zone-the-fuck-out. In doing so the band take you through a myriad of styles and influences without ever appearing to break their stride, meaning that you never really break your concentration. And as these songs emerge from the primordial sonic soup and into your consciousness multiple times, they take a life of their own… what was dormant comes to life in quite a magical way when you think about the fifteen or so years that they have just been sitting there… patiently waiting for the moment to exert an influence on us.
Sometimes the most significant things take the briefest of times, and tend to go under the radar. My personal memories of Providence are fleeting yet important and, I hope that this doesn’t feel like a stretch, this is kind of how I feel about Urdog. They weren’t around for very long, and it seems that they had been largely forgotten… but a rustling of the archives has brought this music back to the surface; and in doing so has resuscitated something that has been dormant for many years. So credit to Rocket for releasing this collection, and for giving me a new musical soundtrack to my brief memories of Providence, Rhode Island.
’Long Shadows: 2003-2006’ is available to pre-order now from Rocket Recordings
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