espite Dog Day’s interpersonal relationships (the band is made up of two couples) Night Group is a lyrically dark affair, eschewing lovey-dovey rhetoric for tales of dead end jobs, wandering eyes, and the general malaise of lost direction. Musically, they juxtapose the moribund lyrics with frenetic guitars and peppy female backing vocals, pushing the songs forward with an earnest and ramshackle approach to songwriting that’s endearing if not exactly enlightening.
Hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, it’s hard to steer clear of comparisons to another Canadian four-piece, Eric’s Trip. But whereas the Trip sounded ramshackle and raw due to the fact that they were, well, ramshackle and raw, Dog Day’s rough around the edges edict seems to stem from the production as much as their performance. Guitars buzz by with Wedding Present intensity, while Seth Smith’s vocals drip with a dry, late ‘90s laconic drawl. Other sure-fire indie pop signifiers show up throughout, including one-finger keyboard riffs and female backing vocals that fluctuate from accentuation to annoyance.
What saves them is their brevity; with each song coming in close to three minutes or less, Dog Day never sticks around long enough for you to get bored. Album opener and lead single, “Lydia,” rollicks by in a mere minute and forty seconds. Its video—a rodent on an exercise wheel—sums up the song’s frenetic pace. It’s indicative of the irresistible charm Dog Day’s shorter songs channel. “Sleeping, Waiting,” for example, which also clocks in at less than two minutes, is a great pop song due to the fact that there’s no room for anything extraneous.
Ostensibly a guitar record, it’s actually the drums and bass that propel each song forward with a Pez like pop that likely stems from the time KC Spidle (drummer) spent playing in Halifax punk band, The Hold. The bottom end, rounded out by bassist, Nancy Urich, meshes meticulously, especially on “Vow,” which eschews the indie pop parameters previously erected, and sounds almost metal.
While the dirge of “Vow” is as dark as the music gets, Dog Day’s lyrics are shadowy sentences that veer from workplace apathy (“Don’t bother getting out of bed / Your occupational dread”) to the travails of time management (“Life is too short to ration out in portions / I spent my time as soon as I get it, its gone”) to just plain mean (“I’m making plans / You can’t be part of them”). Even when they express a positive emotion, like on “Lydia,” it’s done in an aphotic fashion: “I love you so much / I could eat you up.”
But, much like the opening line of “End of the World“ (“Time and time again we break free from the oh so bleak misery”), Dog Day evades sounding gloomy by contrasting the dour lyrics with earnest vocals and upbeat tunes. Perky female backing vocals and minimalist keys also help slay their lyrical demons. These added vocals accentuate some songs to great effect, such as the “doo dooh’s” of “Oh Dead Life.” On others, “Gayhorse” for example, they take a turn towards tweeness that sours the affair. Unlike Urich’s backing vocals, Crystal Thili’s keyboards (which round out the group) are more a textural glaze than a focal point. Yet, the few times they do get pushed to the fore (“Know Who You Are” and “Great Pains”) they give the songs an ‘80s sheen, albeit one that’s been watered down and redacted by indie bands since.
That’s not to say Dog Day are mere indie rock pretenders. “Career Suicide” dissolves and builds with Sonic Youth subtlety, “Oh Dead Life” kicks off with an Interpol propulsion, and the guitars of “Great Pains” are stadium sized. The problem is: in an age of oversaturation, Dog Day offers us nothing new; just something old, something borrowed, and something, lyrically at least, blue.
Reviewed by: Kevin Pearson
Reviewed on: 2007-06-29