I’m sure this is not a shocker. If you know me, you probably could’ve guessed that my 7th of 7 albums was gonna be something by Sabrina Ellis, be it A Giant Dog, Sweet Spirit, or all the way back to Bobby Jealousy. In fact, I almost picked Bobby J’s 2012 debut, A Little Death. That was my gateway, the first batch of “take this and like it” that has made Ellis a lock for my favorite musical artist of the decade. In fairness, AOTD should should probably be Sabrina AND Andrew Cashen, her longtime songwriting co-conspirator in AGD and Sweet Spirit, but the Bobby tracks rightfully put Sabrina at #1.
Anyway, I’m not sure Fight is demonstrably better than any other A Giant Dog album, but it has an undeniable primitive charm. There’s echoes of X, NY Dolls, Geraldine Fibbers (listen to “California Tuffy” off Butch), a smattering of oldies radio, glitter’s everywhere, and it’s not my fault you’re wearing hot pants — though I could’ve warned you that that’s a side effect. Recorded by and with original drummer, Orville Neeley, sonically speaking Fight puts you in a fucking phone booth. The sound is RIGHT on top of you.
As much as any album has done so, it has replicated the brilliance of their live show. It’s hard not to love Sabrina’s swaggering howl, Andrew’s boundless riffage, and their quasi-John/Exene vocal harmonies. Their ability to marry glittery pop hooks and gnarly, overdriven punk rock seems simple, but few have pulled it off so well. Frankly, I think the key to the punk rock end of things is Graham Low. His shifty basslines stay in front of the beat, pulling the whole band forward, and he’s effectively carrying the bottom end throughout Fight.
One interesting thing about Sabrina’s vocal style in this early part of the AGD discography is how often she sang in a lower register. If you listen to A Giant Dog’s most recent album, Toy (2017), or Sweet Spirit’s most recent album, St. Mojo (also 2017), she usually leans on higher notes, if not outright falsetto. These songs don’t particularly anticipate this high, keening direction, — except for maybe “Dog Collar Blues” — but that makes them good timestamps of 2012.
A Giant Dog – Cowboy – 2012 [Bandcamp]
A Giant Dog – Strange – 2012 [Bandcamp]
A Giant Dog – Pins And Needles – 2012 [Bandcamp]