“The break was just life taking us on different journeys. I knew we would cross paths again someday” bassist Rich Guerzon stated optimistically in a recent interview with AltSounds. And sure enough the band found each other again and is now facing a decidedly new musical landscape and industry to what they left behind. With a wide range of influences from The Beatles, Johnny Cash and Led Zeppelin, Dog Society should have the knowledge and experience to still create great music. And so the million dollar question is, can they still cut it amongst the young pups?
Ok enough dog related puns... for their highly-anticipated comeback Dog Society chose to once again work with the combined talent of Rob Schnapf (Saves The Day, Kevin Devine) and Tom Rothrock (Badly Drawn Boy, Elbow) who produced Test Your Own Eyes. The band, which is completed by lead vocalist Brian Schaak, guitarist/vocalist Bruce Erik Brauer and drummer/percussionist Joe Ranieri, finished creating the twelve track record and unleashed it recently with its colourful Day of the Dead style artwork.
“It's a celebration of life and death. Something we all experience in our own unique ways. It's what our music is about” Rich went on to explain. And certainly in the album’s opening track ‘Being Here’, there’s optimism and a feeling of triumph in its lyrics and mood. “Being here, being here today; it’s like a dream to me” Brian croons in his rasping yet mellow tone. It has a distinct Goo Goo Dolls-esque style about it with a combination of electric and acoustic guitar. The uplifting melody is helped along by dreamy harmonies and a strong percussion section of tambourine and crisp cymbals adding texture.
The contrasting ‘A Good Friend’ brings a touch of latino flavour in its intro with staccato guitar notes before a scorching hard-rock fire ignites; including dirty Queens Of The Stone Age-like distortion. It’s a really unique track, smoothly transitioning between a classic and modern rock sound. The acoustic-lead ‘The Fuse Before’ demonstrates yet another side to Dog Society, with a more laid-back pace, multi-layered percussion and somewhat melancholic lyrics. “Always reaching for the sky; can’t get higher than you were before” – a line that’s perhaps a reference to their anxious return. Another light easy-listening jam can be found later on in ‘Spoken Word’ with rich and warming guitar tones and more modest backing vocals. Having recently revisited alternative bands of the 90’s that I either missed or were too young to know about, Dog Society seem to embody a natural, yet gritty edge that the period evoked. Yet at the same time, Dog Society's sound fits quite nicely into today’s world. For example, I really like the journey that ‘Scraped’ takes you on, flowing from a soft alternative groove into a hard and heavy rock stomper which definitely screams of the grunge-heavy era.
There’s vocal manipulation and distorted effects galore on the quirky and psychedelic ‘Shade Grown’. And in ‘Suffer A Smile’ I can hear a trace of Del Amitri in its fun and bubbly composition. Throughout Emerge Dog Society prove to be the excellent musicians I thought they’d be, and this has been highlighted further by the brilliant production here. Each track sounds sharp and clean with every instrument easily identified and heard. Whilst proving they can create a modern sound with nods to the past, ‘Pink Sun’ and ‘Aleja’ have an undeniable air of the 60’s; particularly the latter with a pop-rock sound and vocal style that’s very much like the previously mentioned Liverpudlian legends. With glorious tight harmonies, dischordant guitar notes and wah-wah effects it’s certainly a trip back in time. Moving on, we get the space-themed ‘Daymare’ which is dynamic and powerful when at full force. With lyrics about space monsters, laser-guns, spaceships and “returning home” it sounds a bit of a joke at first, but as the song progresses it picks up emotion and meaning.“I’ve been down here for way too long. There’s nothing going on!” Schnaak passionately declares with luscious harmonies in the epic-sounding choruses.
Talking of things extra-terrestrial, there’s further exploration with the subject matter on ‘Spaceboots’ which brings back the grungy sound heard earlier. “We’re on our way back to Mars so put your spaceboots on” Schnaak repeats in his moody but cool refrain. The low Muse-esque resonating bassline is a great touch and a particularly trippy electric guitar part sounds like it’s actually part of a spaceship’s control deck. Finally reaching closing track ‘Salt’, I was ready to hear just about anything having been taken through a number of different styles, eras and genres. And so the folky, heart-warming sound I heard was another nice addition to the collection. Albeit a more placid ending than I expected, the hand-played percussion and jaunty acoustic guitar create a really pleasant rustic and homely quality; something you could easily listen to with anyone and enjoy.
With a second shot at a career in this business we call music, Dog Society have themselves here a really attractive and long overdue follow-up album that’s grounded in rock but at the same time diverse and experimental; which ultimately makes for a really enjoyable experience regardless of your age or musical preference. Using their collective experience and talent,they have managed to create something both nostalgic and progressive. Let’s just hope they stick around to see the next decade through!
Emerge is out now.
Worth Listening To...
- Being Here
- A Good Friend