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November 2000 Pick of the Month
Building a Better Me 
Artist: Dogwood 
Label: Tooth and Nail Records 
Length: 16 tracks
I’ve actually been looking forward to this record for quite some time now, because Dogwood is a punk band on Tooth & Nail Records that isn’t a carbon copy of MxPx (I’ve named names enough in the past to not have to do so this time). Building a Better Me surpassed my expectations, though-­it’s a good album based not only on what it isn’t, but also what it is: straight-up, well-put-together early nineties skate/punk. 

Stephen Egerton of The Descendents (who, with his old friend Bill Stevenson, seems to be producing every Christian punk record that comes down the pipeline) does a fine job with the production and engineering side of things, as the music is dirty and gritty enough for the band not be to labeled "sell-outs," but still clean and crisp enough to placate those of us reared on pop radio. In addition to the standard punk rock distortion and hyper-speed drums, the band (or perhaps Egerton) decided to throw in an acoustic guitar in some places. These acoustic parts add variety and interest to the album, and are, in my opinion, a wise decision. 

Lyrically, the band is tackling some pretty heavy issues for modern punk. The ironically-titled album opener "The Good Times" deals with broken homes and resent ("I open my heart to much anger locked away inside a boy who’s without you / Without what’s left I’m left to my own bitter view of American family"), and the old English-flavored "The Battle of Them Vs. Them" takes on war and other types of violence with both light sarcasm ("Sing of me, of all the men I kill / I know that this will build me up") and straight-to-the-heart sentimentality ("A small little child sits and waits for his dad, hands clutching a brown telegram / Informs him his father won’t be coming home"). It’s not Dylan Thomas, but it works. 

Album highlights include the aforementioned “Battle,” the incredibly passionate “Overexposed” and “Comes Crashing,” which features vocalist Josh Kemble screaming the infectiously melodic chorus at the top of his lungs. Most of the songs are pretty good, but the album does drag on about three songs too long.  Dogwood fans will eat it up, though, as will followers of Off the Record and other skate/punk groups. 

Michial Farmer 10/22/2000 



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