Young Thugs Records – 12th May 2017
Straight out of the trap, DOG sounds like …And the Hangnails. They have a knack for blasting out of the speakers, full-throttle, from the first bar at the start of every album. There’s no preamble, no atmospheric or suspenseful intros, no slow-build and no pissing about: they’re in there, immediately, all riffing and explosive drumming.
That’s actually all there is: this grungey garage-pop duo have spent their carer to date maximising the impact of a comparatively limited format, namely the fact they’re a guitar and drums combo. But the trick is that they don’t sound like a duo, especially on this, their third album: the production is phat and full and with the treble backed off just a shade in comparison to their previous efforts, Martyn Fillingham’s split-signal guitar sounds thicker, denser meatier and more like both a guitar and bass simultaneously.
Steven Ried’s exceptional powerhouse drumming (this is a man who drums hard, and at a hundred miles an hour, and who makes Dave Grohl sound like some jazz tapper), sounds even more exceptional than ever on DOG. I mean, really. The guy’s a one-man percussion explosion. And again, while it’s commonplace for music critics – myself included, on occasion – to criticise little, grungy, lo-fi bands for ‘selling out’ by cleaning up their sound, aligning higher fidelity with a betrayal of their roots, in this instance at least, it would be a mistake. DOG is the work of a band which has evolved. This means that while there isn’t anything as explosively raw as ‘Fear Only Fear’ or ‘Everybody’s Luck’ from the previous albums, their edge has by no means been dulled. Yes, the songs do feel more crafted, more developed and less primal, bit it’s an incremental thing. It’s still loud, brashy, thrashy and rough around the edged. There’s still fuzz and feedback by the shedload.
But more than anything, on DOG, it’s possible to actually hear the detail and the sonic range. The result is that the full force of their live sound can at last be heard in a recorded format. Besides, it’s not as though they’ve gone super slick and delivered an album of radio-friendly r’n’b. DOG may be an album busting with hooks, but it’s also a serious alt-rock racket, and alongside the breezy surf-pop backing vocals are driving riffs galore.
DOG is without question their most accessible album to date, but that doesn’t mean that it’s overtly commercial or in any way a sell-out. There isn’t a weak track on the album, and there sure as hell isn’t a big ballad at the end of side one. DOG is ferocious, relentless, sharp, to the point and represents the realisation of everything …And the Hangnails have been building up to.
It contains just ten songs, the majority of which sit around the three minute mark. And so, as is their trademark, DOG is a short, sharp blast of post-grunge garagey punk bursting with killer hooks and belting tunes from start to finish. If this doesn’t see them make some kind of breakthrough, the world is even more fucked up and wrong than I’d imagined.