Tymon Dogg – Made Of Light
Like most people familiar with his work, the majority of my knowledge of Tymon Dogg came from his long-time association with The Clash and in particular the song Lose This Skin which he wrote and contributed to their fourth album Sandanista.
What is less well known is that he was also a member of Joe Strummer’s post-Clash group The Mescaleros and whilst some purists struggled to cope with the whirlwind of folk and world music influences that permeated those albums, I personally loved it. Dogg’s sonic signature was stamped all over albums like Streetcore and Global A Go-Go so I was understandably excited to hear his new album Made Of Light which is out next month on Thin Man Music.
Made Of Light is an eclectic album that fuses myriad styles and influences into a swirling sonic soup that leaves the listener wondering where the hell it’s going next. It’s not an easy listen but it can be an enjoyable one if you invest the time in it.
It opens in suitably quirky fashion with the baroque majesty of Conscience Money, a song built primarily around the antiquated rhythms of a harpsichord. The renaissance influences in the music are in stark contrast to the bleak political lyrics delivered in Dogg’s unmistakeable Northern brogue. This rather odd little song is the perfect opener for a collection of songs that veers from one style and influence to another on the slightest whim.
The album highlight for me is the brilliant Pound Of Grain, a song that was conceived during the years he spent collaborating with Strummer. It’s far and away the closest thing to a Clash or a Mescaleros track that Made Of Light has to offer with its tribal-esque rhythms lurking behind a jagged guitar line and snarling lyrics centred around the theme of animal rights. I make no bones about it, this is a phenomenal track that highlights why Stummer regarded Dogg so highly as a musician and lyricist; it is a track worthy of the great man himself.
This record isn’t without its flaws, far from it. The constant changing of sounds and styles means that inevitably there will be tracks on there that you will not like. For me the lighter acoustic tracks like Time For Moving On and the title track threaten to derail the whole thing as they border on the schmaltzy. The other sticking point is Dogg’s voice; a nasally Northern whine that betrays his Lancashire heritage and which at points can sound alarmingly like the late Frank Sidebottom. This isn’t much of an issue for me being a long-time fan but I can see how some newer listeners may balk at it initially.
As the album progressed I found myself yearning for a frantic burst of fiddle-driven folk punk a-la Lose This Skin but alas it was never to arrive. Pound Of Grain is the nearest we get to a straight up punk track and personally I think the it could have done with one or two more just to give the album a bit more depth from which to build on.
Made Of Light is not the album that will bring Tymon Dogg universal commercial success but then again I doubt very much that any album ever would, he’s just not that type of artist. It’s not a record that will be right at the top of your iPod playlist but it is an album that is definitely worth exploring as it does have a lot to offer once you get past that initial feeling of “what the fuck”.