On the surface, you could characterize A Giant Dog’s Merge debut, Pile (get it?), as anthemic garage rock and call it a day. But what makes this Austin band so compelling is that you can hear unexpected references and feel bizarre vibes if you spend time unpacking their new record.
The whole thing kicks off with the haunting-but-beautiful, operatic “Intro.” “Creep” follows, taking the same musical themes from “Intro” but making them METAL. The lyrics continue this “opposites attract” thread, as vocalists Sabrina Ellis and Andrew Cashen moan, “I love you honey/Stay away from me.”
“& Rock & Roll” takes throwback 70’s swagger rock and infuses it with new life. “Jizzney” is like a rock ’n’ roll wedding anthem, and “Not a Miracle” feels fit for a noisy, hardcore sock hop. “King Queen” would feel comfortable on the Rocky Horror soundtrack, but “Get With You and Get High” is the rock version of Kumbaya. It’s all rock, but it all rocks in different ways, and that variance saves the record from feeling stale.
It’s understandable that A Giant Dog can shape-shift so easily within their raucous genre — original bandmates Ellis, Cashen and drummer Orville Neeley got their start covering artists like the Ramones, AC/DC and Joan Jett for school dances in Houston, Texas before heading to Austin and enlisting guitarist Andy Bauer and bassist Graham Low for this project. Beloved by fellow Austinites in bands like Bobby Jealousy and Sweet Spirit (who some of the band’s musicians moonlight with), A Giant Dog’s appeal has broken out beyond the “Live Music Capital” — Britt Daniel, the lead singer of Spoon, fell for the group’s lyrics and sound and invited them to open for his band across the US.
Capturing all of the energy of a live show on a record is no easy feat, but for A Giant Dog, it sounds like they can’t play it any other way. While there are a couple skip-able tracks to be found on Pile — looking at you, “Hitchhike Love” — this is an overwhelmingly satisfying album that makes you believe in rock ’n’ roll all over again.
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