Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Dragons - Pain Killer

I was surprised to find that I had never written about one of my favorite r’n’r bands of the 90’s, San Diego’s incredible Dragons. I believe that I first heard them when one of my bands played with them in SD but since that date I’ve been a huge fan. Terrific Stones/Dolls inspired r’n’r given the Dragons unique stamp and played by some of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Sadly, they split up several years ago, but members are still out & about & rockin’ and they even did a reunion gig recently that I was unable to attend.

The band was never thrilled with the production and studio quality of this, their first CD (though there is a kinda repressed vinyl album with – I think – a slightly different lineup that came out previously but wasn’t very representative), but I loved it from the moment I first heard it! The songs are stellar throughout and the playing kicks ass!

Mario Escovedo comes from a long line of musicians, including a brother (Javier) in the fabulous Zeros, another brother with a solo career, an uncle who played with Santana, Sheila E and many more! He continues this fine tradition with this group in which he sings lead, plays guitar and helps write the songs. “Sometimes” is a cool r’n’r opener, but the hit of the album is certainly “High”. Extremely catchy, rockin’ beyond belief and a wonderful tale of being the gentleman who will get his girl high as well as himself! In a fair world, this would have been a massive hit, but life is rarely fair! Lead guitarist Ken Horne is mind blowing here, and he is one of the best to come outta the scene.

The band pounds out song after song in an intense Stones-as-punks kinda way, with clever rhythm accents (“Runaway”), plenty of fine lead playing and cool lyrics (“Pain Killer”), catchy riffs and cool melodies (“Who Calls My Name”) and NY Dolls references (“Too Much Too Soon”).

Bassist Steve Rodriguez sings lead for a out-of-control and wholy appropriate cover of Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation”, a staple of their live set throughout their career and pretty much their own manifesto!

Classic Dragons’ sound and themes are embodied in “Fuck Up”, a great rhythm-rocker with self-deprecating lyrics of a good guy trying to do the right thing but constantly screwing up (usually by being fucked up!). Very relatable!

The guys kept their titles short and sweet on this album, as the next few attest – “Train”, “Riser”, & “Confusion” – all solid and memorable rockers with drummer extraordinaire Jerrod Lucas holding everything together and propelling them along. They close with a nod to their heritage, Doug Sahm’s “Adios Mexico”, given plenty of punk rock energy and attitude.

There is no way to over estimate the quality of this band’s material and live act – they were certainly one of the highlights of the 90’s and beyond! All of their releases are highly recommended and if they ever reunite in your area, go see them for a real blast of a r’n’r experience!