I think the heavens actually opened up the first time I heard The Treatment’s debut record, This Might Hurt. It was everything I could have asked for in a modern rock record: rowdy, tight, melodic, powerful and just downright catchy. And now, after four… has it really been four years since that album first came out? Blimey. Anyway, they’re back with their second album, Running with the Dogs, and because I’m such a gent I’ve drummed up a little review for you all. After my track-by-track review of Red Dragon Cartel I’m going to try and write a briefer, more cohesive piece for this one, but as always I can’t tell you if you like something or not, so if I peak your interest check out some samples or videos and decide for yourself.
I’ve listened to this record a few times now, and I’ll be blunt: if you’re looking for an album exactly like This Might Hurt… this isn’t it. It’s a tougher, leaner, faster album than their debut, and that’s evident right from track one, “I Bleed Rock + Roll”: it’s just as raucous as any of their earlier material, but (here we go, AS-level Music Theory coming into action), the riff is tighter and more streamlined, with some vicious licks accenting the verse melody (I got an E). The Eighties glam touches that made This Might Hurt all polished and shiny are largely gone – it’s more Slave to the Grind than Skid Row. But you know what? As much as I liked their first album, I think this one ups the ante. There are two things The Treatment do well – riffs and melodies – and they’re on fine form here. What these guys did need were some harder-hitting songs and, fortunately, Running with the Dogs has them all over the place.
There are, however, a few acoustic touches here and there across the record, from the little intro that opens the superb “Outlaw” to the ballads, “Unchain My World and “Cloud Across the Sun” – two light reprieves from the fast rockers, both more contemplative and reined-in than anything on the previous record. In fact, the raise-the-roof love songs are pretty much gone, more evidence that the band are streamlining their approach. “Emergency” is the closest we have on this album to a sing-yer-head-off ballad in the vein of “Just Tell Me Why” or “Nothing to Lose But Our Minds,” but even then it’s a tougher, less romantic song than those two. They even go in for some harmonic backing vocals on the chorus, and it’s a nice, unconventional touch for these guys. Scratch that, there’s three things The Treatment does very well: riffs, melodies and choruses.*
But really, all jargon and piffle aside, it’s another Treatment album – put simply, it rocks from start to end, and at a slim 48-odd minutes it doesn’t outstay its welcome. As for personal highlights? Well, “I Bleed Rock + Roll” is a blast; the title track has a great, anthemic feel that doesn’t stray into bombast; “Emergency” has some wonderful melodic moments; but my favourite song has to be the final track, “Don’t Get Mad Get Evil.” I can’t quite get out how much I love this song: the mangled verse-riff, the sinister, slithering chorus,** the solo, the sheer catchiness of it all (I swear, this is the catchiest freaking thing you’ll hear all month)… everything works here. “Don’t Get Mad Get Evil” might just top “Shake the Mountain” for my favourite Treatment song, and if they don’t play this at every concert until the day they die in a fiery rooftop explosion saving London from the lizard-people who threaten our precious sugar (could happen), I am going to be seriously peeved.
VERDICT: Highly recommended. It’s a different animal to This Might Hurt: the songwriting is more mature, the production is drier and leaner, Jones’ vocals are reined in a little more and the overall package delivers a more cohesive listen. Funnily enough, it’s not as immediate as its predecessor and might take a few more listens for things to really click (it did for me), but overall this is a step forward from This Might Hurt in all the right directions. At the end of the day, though, it’s The Treatment through and through, and they’re writing some of the best modern hard rock songs out there.
FAVOURITES: “I Bleed Rock + Roll;” “The Outlaw;” “She’s Too Much;” “World on Fire;” “Don’t Get Mad Get Evil”
P.S. What’s weird is that these songs have just the right balance of melody and riffage for the band to potentially break through on mainstream radio without losing their rock credibility – so why don’t they get more public exposure? Are the executives worried something like this might hit it big and their ten-a-penny songwriters would have to put some actual effort into their dreck for a change? Even Heaven’s Basement made it to the Radio 1 C-list last year. Songs like “Emergency” or “World on Fire” could do quite well on the charts if given a bit more of a push.
P.P.S. By the way, the deluxe edition comes with six bonus tracks: four covers and two acoustic renditions, one of the title track and one of “I Bleed Rock + Roll.” The covers don’t sound too dissimilar to the originals, which is hardly a criticism, but they serve more as a digestif than dessert (that might be the most pretentious thing I’ve ever written, and I still had to look up digestif) – though they did remind me how good Status Quo’s “In My Chair” is. Thanks for that, lads. There’s also a bonus track, “Way of the World,” on the iTunes deluxe edition which I haven’t checked out yet, but if it’s anything like the rest of the album it should be good.
*I will point out, though – and I’m probably not the first – that the descending riff sounds suspiciously similar to Stone Temple Pilots’ “Sex Type Thing.” Then again, “Sex Type Thing” sounded suspiciously similar to KISS’ “War Machine,” so there’s obviously something to that rhythm that just works.
**As opposed to the Slytherin chorus, which is when evil wizards go caroling.
Running with the Dogs is out now on Spinefarm Records.