a promising early work

Peek (self-produced)
Dodge City

By Mark Clark

It's a testament to the depth of the local talent pool that a band as interesting and talented as Dodge City doesn't rank among the city's premiere acts.

The group's debut CD, Peek, seems better and better with every listen. It's loaded with hard-driven grooves that carve themselves into your memory.

Dodge City — which consists of vocalist Jim Leamy, drummer Scott McKenzie, bassist Frank Green and guitarist Michael McAfee — is a finely tuned unit. Unlike many hardcore outfits who rely on pure energy to get them through (and help listeners overlook sloppy mistakes), all these guys can play. McAfee distinguishes himself in particular.

The band's biggest problem is that it seems, often, to pursue riffs for their own sake. Too often, Dodge City's songs begin with a great riff, but end without going anyplace, leaving me waiting for an unexpected chord change or lyrical twist that never comes. Most of the tunes on Peek are simply too predictable. This is a band bright enough to write songs that catch listeners off guard — an ability that separates great bands from good ones.

Whatever its weaknesses, Peek has moments of sheer bliss. "She" is a haunting number built on a looping guitar riff and an elastic bass line. "Golden Boy" is straight-ahead rocker with intriguing lyrics. (Fellas: Is this a Christ metaphor?)

"G," the tune included on the Rough Diamond Uncut Sampler, is catchy but a shade derivative. It sounds like a punchier reworking of Chris Cornell's "Seasons." In fact, many of Dodge City's compositions recall Soundgarden, though none as much so as "G."

One more nugget of advice: The band should seriously rethink its name. "Dodge City" sounds like a bunch of refugees from the Nashville Network. That may seem persnickity. But Kiya Heartwood, founder of a relatively successful regional band named Stealin Horses, told me once that her band's western-sounding name was a real hindrance, especially when the group's major label debut was released.

Record store owners stuck the album in the country section. Rock radio programmers mistook it for a country record as well, often discarding it without a listen. Country programmers didn't know that to make of the thing. And critics had a field day coming up with goofy cowboy puns. Who needs that?

It's tough enough to claw to the top, without such baggage. Even for a band as promising as Dodge City.