Dogs, 100 Club, London

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The Independent Culture

The 100 Club, the smoky cellar beneath Oxford Street where The Sex Pistols made their name nearly 30 years ago, is a fitting venue to find Dogs, a group of north-London newcomers firmly in thrall to the class of 1976. While their contemporaries seek inspiration in the unfathomably fashionable-again Eighties, this "anti-glam, anti-art school" quintet find theirs in The Jam and The Clash.

Accordingly, it's more a matter of attitude than musical proficiency, with energy, authenticity and passion prized above musical ambition. At this early stage in their career, Dogs have little of the latter in evidence. But in singer Johnny Cooke, they have a front man whose bark is as big as his lyrical bite. "I can't tell you how angry I am and I always will be," he has said. And with good reason: expelled from three schools, he survived a near-fatal car crash at 17 and lost both parents to cancer before he was 22.

That wellspring of rage is reflected not only in his repertoire of spiky outsider lyrics - lost jobs, lost girlfriends, lost opportunities - but also in the fire-and-brimstone sound of drummer Rich Mitchell, bassist Duncan Timms, rhythm guitarist Luciano Vargas and lead guitarist Rikki Mehta, whose Johnny Thunders flourishes colour their otherwise resolutely British sound.

Cooke spits, snarls and sneers his way through a dozen three-minute songs that each deliver a short, sharp shock to the system. Before long the capacity crowd has spilled on to the stage, swiftly engulfing the group and, disappointingly, bringing a premature halt to their best song, "Tuned to a Different Station". Even then, Cooke keeps his humour. "If I was there I'd be doing it too," he tells them.

It's only nine months since Dogs released their debut single "London Bridge", an escapist anthem that Cooke wrote while driving a white van for a living and dreaming of a better life. Introduced by the pealing churchbell chimes of Mehta's guitar, it's simultaneously a protest at the monotony of the nine-to-five grind and a joyful celebration of being young and free on a Friday night in the greatest city in the world.

After thrashing their way through most of their debut album, Turn Against This Land, Dogs don't so much bare their teeth as show their roots by performing The Jam's "A-Bomb In Wardour Street", made newly resonant by Cooke's dedication. "This is for London," he says. "And for everyone who has to get a bus in the morning wondering what's in that rucksack."

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