April 27, 2017 | by James Greene, Jr.
Yellow Springs, Ohio: The Dayton adjacent village superstar comedian Dave Chappelle retreats to when he’s not filming heartbreakingly problematic standup specials for Netflix. Yellow Springs also hosted the birth of Cincinnati Red Mike Kahoe, a slightly pre-Deadball Era catcher noted for his pioneering use of shinguards (Ol’ Shinguard Mike, they probably called him).
Kahoe kicked the bucket 45 years before the next cultural Yellow Springs factoid worth a grump in this weary chickenshit’s eyes: The June 1995 recording of O-Matic’s convulsing maelstrom of grunge ‘n’ roll sass Dog Years at area studio Soundspace.
Released in 1996, Dog Years is an invigorating, freewheeling gut flip at the command of gloriously bratty singer and guitarist Michelle Bodine. Previously Bodine leant her talents to Dayton’s semi-legendary Brainiac — specifically, that group’s 1993 debut, Smack Bunny Baby. Connective tissue exists between Smack Bunny Baby and Dog Years, but the former is uptight and inward in ways the latter could never dream of being. Thanks for that must also, of course, go to the remainder of O-Matic, who coalesce beautifully with Bodine and each other: Brother Scott Bodine on second guitar and occasional vocals, bassist Rob Tarbell, and drummer Will Gale.
Dog Years loads up with the perfect one-two smash. Album opener “Slow Ass Cadillac” is a bruising mockery of auto show culture from a protagonist who’s dying to burn rubber but can’t because some enormous land yacht is lumbering along in front of her. “Turn right and make my night,” she pleads, as angry riffs careen around halting drum patterns (a drunken monkey style of fretwork, where fingers refuse to hold any given note with authority, is one of O-Matic’s greater charms). The lusted-after speed finally breaks out across song two, “Smoke Cigarettes,” a deep catharsis that cements this band as no friend of the Surgeon General.
The rest of the album unfolds as such, fervently kicking and crashing through evergreen rock themes like making out (“No Pinky, No Leather”), not making out (“Not Yours To Lose”), and weed (“Flick The Roach”). Indeed, if L7 lived in a giant Dennis Kucinich-shaped bong five hours southeast of Chicago, they might sound like O-Matic (there’s your quote to sticker on the front cover of the inevitable reissue of this album). As a palette cleanser, Dog Years tops off its 39 minutes with 51 seconds of actual dog barking, presumably via the Whippet seen on the album’s front and back covers. Ambient noise is a welcome relief after such rock density.
O-Matic never busted out of Ohio like they should have, despite an apparent friendship with Kim Deal (who is credited as “boom operator and dolly grip” on Dog Years). The band finagled a slot on 1996 Germs tribute album, A Small Circle of Friends, but their spirited stab at “Strange Notes” is lost in a shuffle of “name” alt-rockers trying to out-punk each other. Darby Crash impressions of varying degree fall from the lips of Kim Gordon and Mike Watt, while NOFX mutate “Forming” into mall punk, the Posies soften “Richard Dagger’s Crime” for Osmond freaks, Flea softens “Media Blitz” for Hare Krishna, and Matthew Sweet does whatever the hell he does to “Dragon Lady” (fuck it gently with a drum machine?). O-Matic probably should have released “Strange Notes” as their own 7-inch backed with another track of dog barks.
On second thought, that appearance on A Small Circle may have led one or two or 12 people to Dog Years, so let’s not be dismissive. Let’s simply give thanks for the O-Matic we have, and try not to get too choked up over non-existent record number two. It’s what Ol’ Shinguard Mike would have wanted.