Dogstar - More Than a Gimmick
by Hugh Rankin
Yeah, Dogstar is that band with "Movie Boy" Keanu Reeves. And yeah, without the star presence of Movie Boy there's little doubt that Dogstar would still be just another talented young band struggling for recognition in some dank So Cal garage. But the fact is that Reeves is an integral part of the three-man band, and his bass beating role within the group has quickly lifted Dogstar squarely into the public consciousness.
Along with guitarist/vocalist Bret Domrose and drummer Rob Mailhouse, Reeves has already enjoyed national tours with the likes of David Bowie and Bon Jovi. (understandable, especially in light of Jon Bon Jovi's own dream of becoming a Movie Boy) as well as appearances on a variety of national TV shows, including Late Night With David Letterman. Not bad for a band whose debut disc, Our Little Visionary, came out long after all of those events occurred. But before you get the impression that Movie Boy is throwing his weight around in an attempt to get his band a little extra recognition, let be said that Reeves has willingly played a subordinate role in Dogstar's media campaign, allowing his bandmates - as well as the group's music - to assume the star mantle in his little rock and roll drama.
"I admit that my acting career has given us some opportunities to be heard." Reeves said. "And we're grateful for that. But in the end it comes down to the music, and I feel good about what we're doing."
Blending their decidedly off-center pop sensibility with a flair for dramatically reinterpreting certain cliché-riddled alternative stances, on their debut disc Dogstar has emerged with a quixotic, eminently appealing collection of tunes. While some may question the band's scatted shot musical philosophy, there's certainly something for everyone contained with their album's 12 tracks. Ranging from the guitar-driven crunch Bleeding Soul to the heart-felt messages of Honesty Anyway, Our Little Visionary runs the musical gamut with style, sophistication and perhaps even surprising skill.
The appearance of their first album represents the culmination of Dogstar's five-year battle for recognition. It was back in 1991 that then-unknown Reeves first teamed up with Mailhouse to begin writing and playing everything from three-chord original covers of old Badfinger tunes (by the way that band's classic No Matter What makes an appearance on Visionary.) Despite the blooming of Reeves's acting career - in case you don't live on Planet Earth, he was the star of Speed - the pair maintained their musical focus as best they could. Always seeking out a third member who shared their rock and roll vision. Finally, in 1994, they came in contact with Domrose, and the rest, as they so often say, is history. The band proceeded to put as much time into their songwriting as the varied schedules allowed, and by late last year the group's four-song enhanced CD, Quattro Formaggi, served to introduce the group to the rock masses. Less than two month later Our Little Visionary helped push the fledgling unit over the top.
"With this album we've come full circles," Mailhouse said. "The four-song CD represented the end of an era for us, as those are the songs we wrote at the outset of our formation. The songs that are on the album are a little different. They are more mature and diverse. This time we've done deeper."
It remains to be seen if it will be Reeves' star presence or the band's alterna-pop approach that will solidify Dogstar's position in the rock world. Over the next few months it's sure bet that few other groups will enjoy more media coverage and draw more critical concern. Oh well, even if things don't go as well as planned it's comforting to know that at least Movie Boy got another career to fall back on.