Dog Stars

Dogs Die in Hot Cars takes a bite out of the hype.

I've got this idea for a video," says Craig Macintosh, "of me in the middle of the street taking a shit and picking my nose and pissing all over the place. It's so important to do. I feel like I have to do that."

Macintosh has some issues with fame. Which is funny, because his band, Dogs Die in Hot Cars, is the hottest thing out of Scotland since fellow Glaswegian act Franz Ferdinand. The buzz surrounding Dogs Die's debut album, Please Describe Yourself, jumped a few decibels after a recent appearance at South by Southwest, and the disc has been steadily attaining household-name stature in the UK since its release last summer. Propelled by the British hit single "I Love You 'Cause I Have To," it's a collection of sharp, impeccably crafted pop that resembles the spiky songcraft of XTC as well as the faux Motown sheen of Dexy's Midnight Runners' Searching for the Young Soul Rebels and Elvis Costello's Get Happy.

But as enamored of pop mythology as Macintosh and his bandmates -- guitarist Gary Smith, bassist Lee Worrall, keyboardist Ruth Quigley and drummer Laurence Davey -- clearly are, the singer-guitarist's disdain for stardom and its attendant bullshit is not something he's shy about expressing.

Heat seekers: Craig Macintosh (from left), Ruth 
Quigley, Lee Worrall, Gary Smith and Laurence 
Davey are Dogs Die in Hot Cars.
Perou
Heat seekers: Craig Macintosh (from left), Ruth Quigley, Lee Worrall, Gary Smith and Laurence Davey are Dogs Die in Hot Cars.

"I really hate this whole perception of celebrities being whiter than white or superhuman in some way," he stresses. "To me, it's always important to remind people that these people piss and shit and puke just like the rest of us. Our song 'Celebrity Sanctum' is about that; it's a comment on how we relate to celebrities. It totally dehumanizes people. It's fucking disgusting. I think maybe it's always been like that, but there's just less opportunity to avoid it now than there used to be."

In "Celebrity Sanctum," Macintosh chants the names Angelina Jolie, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Lucy Liu with an almost hymnal reverence, sounding simultaneously starstruck and sarcastic as he implores, "Why don't you come home, why don't you come home/And just one star jump out of magazines into my arms/We took it too, we took it too far." But big-screen vixens aren't the only victims of Dogs Die's cultural skewering. "Paul Newman's Eyes" is a sliver of bitterness lodged beneath sweet harmonies and sparkling keys, replete with the caustic couplet, "Look at those setters, those setters of the trend/Look at that band, they act so confident."

"I need to get really pissed off about things to write about them," Macintosh admits. "They need to really grate against me and get me frustrated. And then I sort of make light of them. What we do is kind of a reaction against this music we were hearing on the airwaves in Britain. It was just so bland and self-obsessed. I think it's exciting here right now. There are a lot of good bands coming out, a lot of good songwriting."

Besides being name-dropped in the same breath with Franz Ferdinand, Dogs Die is regularly mentioned alongside other hyped British acts like Bloc Party and Kasabian. Far from being big-city scenesters, though, Macintosh and company came together in the small seaside town of Fife, most famous for the prestigious University of St. Andrews -- not to mention being the birthplace of golf. There, in the same small but tightly knit scene that birthed the Beta Band, the group developed far away from the pretension and pressures of urban hipness.

"It's quite a unique place, really," Macintosh says of his home town. "You've got these complete opposites, the academic and the working classes. It's very diverse. You're away from London and big business, and it kind of allows people to get on and do their own thing."

After relocating to the much more bustling Glasgow, Dogs Die was quickly signed to the indie imprint Radiate. The 2Tone-accented "I Love You 'Cause I Have To" snagged the band a contract with V2 Records. Please Describe Yourself was soon to follow. Produced by Clive Langer and Alan Wistanley (best known for working with the likes of Madness, Morrissey and David Bowie), the record drew inspiration from the music of the '80s, even as it nimbly sidestepped the post-punk pigeonhole.

"People naturally look to the past to be able to tag things, to understand them," Macintosh observes. "New wave in the early '80s was a reaction to punk. It still had that vibrancy, but was a little more pop-aware, a little more creative. I can relate to those bands. But the '80s are no more important than any other era to us -- the '90s, the '60s, the '70s. We don't want to copy anyone. I don't think any band really wants to copy anyone. What we do is honest, and it's ours. Everything's derivative in some way, and everything's new."

Pop music, however, wasn't the record's only cultural inspiration. "The Office is my favorite television program," Macintosh enthuses. "It's just this amazing, extremely sad, wonderful, beautiful observation of life. I'd like to think that, musically, that's what we're trying to do. I'm working on a song right now about this whole thing that's been labeled as 'recreational grief.' Like, with Princess Diana or the pope, collective mourning is the most fun thing for people. They love nothing more. They all go down to drop off flowers and stand in front of the camera crying their eyes out, saying how wonderful this person was.

"The title of the album even comes from television," he adds, "from the Dating Channel. It's sad but also quite funny. It's all these lost souls trying to find a mate, and they're always asked to describe themselves using only five words. They're always the same words: happy-go-lucky, fun, outgoing, bubbly, friendly. It's always selective. No one would ever say, 'I'm a bit of a manic-depressive, maybe a closet homosexual. I have this weird growth on the top of my penis.'"

Warts and all -- that's definitely Macintosh's view of how celebrity should be exposed to the masses. And given the chance, he swears he'll make the self-humiliating video to prove it. "If I ever get to the stage where I have that kind of celebrity status and I don'tmake that video," he says in all sincerity, "I want you to come up and fucking hit me."

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