This smart and friendly English foursome (from Medway, in Kent) embodies the best aspects of the Anglo-jangle-pop genre, while maintaining a jittery-sometimes downright loud-rock edge that keeps their playful tunes from straying too far into the land of the twee. After a series of low-key UK and European releases in the second half of the ’80s, the Dentists belatedly entered the US market with the six-song Naked and the 22-song CD Dressed. The latter collects most of Some People Are on the Pitch and Beer Bottle and Banister Symphonies, albums that themselves were assembled from early singles and EPs. As such, it’s a treasure trove of impish wordplay and wall-to-wall hooks, with tunes like “Strawberries Are Growing in My Garden (And It’s Wintertime),” “She Dazzled Me With Basil,” “I Had an Excellent Dream” and “Just Like Oliver Reed” sounding every bit as sharp as their titles. The ten-track Powdered Lobster Fiasco is just as tuneful and energetic, with increased lyrical depth that enhances the resonance of tunes like “Charms and the Girl,” “Outside Your Inside” and “I Can See Your House From Up Here” (all of which, along with three others on the LP, had previously been issued on a set of three coordinated 7-inch singles by different Amerindie labels).
Behind the Door I Keep the Universe (also released in the US as a limited-edition set of three 7-inch EPs) is the Dentists’ most infectious album, as well as its most mature. The band’s melodic strengths meld nicely with its increasingly grown-up lyrical perspective. As such, it’s a delight from start to finish, with hyperactive pop tunes (“Space Man,” “Faces on Stone”) and more introspective fare (“Sorry Is Not Enough,” “A Smile Like Oil on Water”).
The production credit of New York noise-rock specialist Wharton Tiers is a tipoff of the misguided sonic makeover the band attempts on Deep 6. The attempt to toughen up the approach only succeeds in making the Dentists sound more like everybody else, but the album still has its moments, including “Shining Like a Star,” “Kick Start My Body” and “My Heart Is Like a Town You Moved Away From.” Not surprisingly, the souped-up production didn’t help the band expand its audience. Soon after, they were dropped by EastWest, guitarist Bob Collins left and the remaining members (singer/guitarist Mick Murphy, drummer Rob Grigg and bassist Mark Matthews) regrouped as the Shot Marilyns, which quickly became Coax.