reviewed by Michael Thomas
At this point, to say a band is “world-weary” would be a huge cliché. It would be even more cliché to say that we have a society have grown a lot more weary in the last few years.
Dog is Blue are dealing with weariness. I mean, you don’t call your album Dead and Gone if you’re not planning on dealing with some grimmer subjects. But what’s lovely about this album is that Paul Watson and Laura Heaney acknowledge the ennui and obstacles we face in life but choose to see a silver lining. Even a song that sounds at first like total surrender is actually about finding strength somewhere else.
It’s been a very, very long time since Dog is Blue released their full-length Tortoise, but the long gap has not dulled the rough-and-tumble folk-rock-pop sound that makes this duo so endearing. The band occasionally sells its own line of fuzz pedals, so naturally the guitar work in here is really fun, like the driving notes of “Flightless Birds” or the gentle picking of the title track.
The duo also packs a lot of words into these 11 songs. Some choice lines like “Here we go again, it’s that annual sense of effervescence” or “This is the niche you carved, full of paycheques and pleasantries” give a sense of Watson and Heaney’s playfulness. The two play seamlessly off each other vocally and instrumentally; together they’re more than the sum of their parts.
As mentioned, throughout you’ll see the two lifting themselves out of the doldrums. “It’s OK” has Watson and Heaney acknowledging that nothing in life is really going well, but they really don’t need anything but each other. Where the quiet “Little Dragon Slayer” has Watson wondering where his promised riches and adventure are, “Button Song” acts like an antidote to the song. Watson is talking to a child as he describes a number of buttons that can do things like revive a dead hamster or prevent heart attacks, but then advises the kid to “Dig your own dirt and push your own daisies.” We can take the easy way out or carve our own paths.
From the instrumental “Kalamazoo” onward, the songs get much more supportive. Ironically, “Feel Good Hit” starts with minor chords, but Watson eventually repeats “We could all use a helping hand.” There’s a great sense of childlike wonder in the blazing “Young Pup” and “Got Nothing” tells a story of kids who try to be cool but fail perpetually.
Finally, the title track acts like a thesis for the album. Watson describes the repetitive process of waking up each morning and going to your job, but Watson and Heaney find more meaning in our day-to-day lives. We will all die eventually, but it’s not something to be scared of. “Every gust of wind on the lawn takes a couple wilted leaves from the tree” is a fantastic metaphor for finding a silver lining to ugliness.
Dead and Gone will be out on Sept. 28.
Top Tracks: “Flightless Birds”; “Button Song”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*