‘Pile’ continues to draw equally from punk’s sneering energy to the gleeful raunchiness of glam to sleazy 70s rock
For their newest LP (and their first for Merge Records) Austin glam-punk outfit A Giant Dog teamed up with Spoon producer Mike McCarthy to record what is arguably their more raucous and focused record yet, tearing their way through a 15-song set that rarely lets off the gas but never comes close to fizzling out as a result.
The jump to an “established” indie label may leave more than a few punks balking at the idea, but the move works in spades for the band. For one, ‘Pile’ is less restrained than their previous album, ‘Bone’: the drums are crisper, the guitars buzz with greater sharpness, and Sabrina Ellis is at her most wild-eyed and spirited.
Another thing is that ‘Pile’ continues to draw equally from punk’s sneering energy to the gleeful raunchiness of glam to sleazy 70s rock à la bands like Alice Cooper, but offers a more adventurous take on those influences this time around. Songs like ‘Hitchhike Love’, ‘Sleep When Dead,’ and ‘I’ll Come Crashing’ are just a few that combine blazing tempos with fist-pumping shout-alongs and irresistible hooks; the rollicking piano driven ‘Sex & Drugs’ careens by in under two-and-a-half minutes, and ‘& Rock & Roll’ is pure glam swagger. Even when they break out the acoustics and slow things down on the surprisingly tugging ‘Jizzney’ and ‘Get With You and Get High’, it does nothing to diminish the overall energy of the album.
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It’s to his credit that McCarthy avoids glossing over their sound in favor of peeling back a couple of layers and allowing their strengths to reveal themselves. Ellis has always had an amazing voice, and it benefits most from the added clarity as she and co-vocalist Andrew Cashen play off of each other and deliver some criminally catchy harmonies throughout the album. Whenever a punk band chooses to tackle “mature” themes, things can get a little touchy, and ‘Pile’ is littered with all kinds of “grown up” issues from divorce and ageing to frustration and death. What makes it all work is how A Giant Dog confront these issues with juvenile and even offensive and grotesque humor. It’s enough to leave you wondering if they’re taking any of it seriously at all, and that’s the trick. They’re taking it seriously, but rather than sitting around brooding over life’s setbacks and its inevitable end, they choose instead to confront it all head on with a defiant immature attitude and celebrate what they have while they have it through some especially overblown, messy, and thoroughly enjoyable rock music.
‘Pile’ is out now via Merge Records
This A Giant Dog article was written by Jeremy Monroe, a GIGsoup contributor