Dog Day Night Group

[Tomlab; 2007]

Styles: spunky production, morose rock, dark horse races
Others: John Vanderslice, The Like Young, Sonic Youth

Talk about show-stopping. Halifax’s Dog Day are utterly enamored with the concept, expertly crafting each cut on their Tomlab debut to explode out from the gates like renegade bulls, leaving the mangled corpses of gored compositions in their wake. Every song the band spits out collides head-on with the next at a breakneck pace, channeling darkly tinged pop hooks and dry sentimentality upon impact. Literally every song. Night Group finds the group flashing their wares at you long enough to be scorched onto your retinas before they give a final shake, fasten their overlong coats back up, and run cackling into the distance. You might stand frozen in bewilderment, or you may shrug it off as another experience in a burdensome existence. But that’s just being jaded.

Neat little conflagrations of guitar chords and keyboard/organ groans litter the band’s playing field. “End of the World” finds tension in building up stamina and releasing it in group chants, while “Lydia” is concentrated energy with its unrelenting barrage of stuttered guitar work and promises to “eat you up.” Even slow-builders such as “Know Who You Are” aren’t allowed to catch a breath, driving drum kicks and alarming keyboard gripes shooing it along on its treadmill. The album is a breathless episode, with the band seemingly unaware that songs should sound any other way. That sort of brash verve covers the whole of the set, moving it along at a pace where sameness isn’t a plague but an inevitability.

Vocal duties are shared by Seth Smith and his girlfriend Nancy Urich, and they find just the right niche where the lyrical qualities of the band share equal footing with the almost overpowering instrumentation. They pass off lines and harmony as easily as a no-threat version of Hot Potato, making their brand of unenthusiastic droning a perfect fit. Any sweeter or more excitable and the couple would draw the unfortunate comparisons to those other lovebird singing duos. The sweetest the record gets is in Urich’s recurring “doo-wop”s over the course of “Oh Dead Life,” but as hinted at by the song’s title and basically zombie-centric lyrical content, it never quite crosses the threshold into sappy territory. And that would be a faulty artifice anyway, because this is music for crows, not canaries. As an aside, Smith’s delivery is a near dead-ringer for that of John Vanderslice. So it’s almost a fun ‘What If?’ tale wherein Vanderslice assembles a band, cranks it up a few beats per minute, and throws out his love for variety; think MK Ultra on stimulants and depressants.

On the auspiciously titled “Gayhorse,” a doubtful Smith sings, “Let me inside/ Like a vampire/ I must be invited.” It’s an open invitation and well worth the admittance, barring any bitten necks. The Smiths’ wistful melancholy, Rather Ripped’s pristine calculations, and the flash-in-the-pan proliferation so many young bands ride upon are just some of the factors that went into the witch’s brew of Night Group. And somehow it’s no worse off for it, unlike the rumblings of countless other upstart rock groups. As slightly derivative as their sound may seem, Dog Day have a knack for computing creative little detonations that are hard to turn away from and even more difficult to throw a word of scorn at. You could call it forgettable, shake your head, and chalk it up to one of those oppressive experiences, but don’t be surprised when one night in the midst of slumber you find Dog Day’s cloaked figure rapping its knuckles across your second-story window.

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