Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Deformer - Dog Day


Dog Day
FunDog Records.

SCQ Rating: 80%

Anyone who has caught Dog Day live knows that the punk spirit inhabiting the fringes of their gloomy, controlled records frays apart onstage. From statesmen of gloom to hell-bent revelers in a snap, the band’s raw performances became expositions on how to hear an album like Concentration or Elder Schoolhouse in an aggressive new light. So when this spring’s Scratches EP all but erased the contrast to Dog Day’s duality by presenting their noise-band rep on record, complete in raw recordings and compressed textures, it seemed as though the newly minted duo (core members Seth Smith and Nancy Urich) was self-imposing itself into a corner.

Deformer, despite bearing a similar home-recorded approach as Scratches EP, promptly incinerates those fears with a line-up of killer tunes with real songwriting depth. From the rallying call of ‘Daydream’ and rhythmic intensity of ‘Part Girl’ to ‘I Wanna Mix’’s autumnal guitar tones, Smith and Urich get the obvious out of the way; that losing half the members of their band hasn’t diminished the restless creativity at the heart of Dog Day. And as Deformer branches into menacing riffs (‘Positive’) and affecting atmospherics (‘Mr Freeze’), it becomes clear that the Nova Scotia-based duo has stepped further, somehow channeling the unhinged spirit of a band basking in the limelight for the first time. The scrappy yet magnetic energy displayed on Deformer seeks not to pedestal its qualities on Dog Day’s string of successful releases, as most artists would be content doing, but instead provides a blank slate – for both fans and themselves. It’s the same Dog Day you’ve always loved, just hungrier.

On a personal note, I’d be remiss not to mention how much I enjoyed Dog Day as a fearsome foursome. Part of the reason Concentration became Skeleton Crew Quarterly’s Top Album of 2009 was because the instrumentation posed so many intriguing questions; elegant bits of distortion melting into one another and songwriting that benefitted from different pens to the paper. No one really doubted Smith and Urich’s roles as the key ingredients to that stew but I’d wager a lot of fans hardly expected Deformer to make such a fine point of it. A passionate and ferocious return.

Dog Day - Scratches by Noyes Records

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