Influences: Beer, dolphins, dirty feet, The Velvet Underground, Bo Diddley, The Seeds, The Kinks, David Bowie, The New York Dolls, Black Flag, The Coasters, The Four Tops, Sam Cooke, Daddy Backhand and the Loud Mouthed Bitches
—A Giant Dog to Austin Sound
Early December usually means two things: 1) You’re about to get hit with a shit ton of Christmas advertising and 2) You’re about to get hit with a shit ton of music lists (Top 10s, Top 20s, Top 50s, etc.). If my previous 43 years on the planet are any guide, these lists will mostly focus on music ranging from pleasant to unremarkable and skew politically correct because that’s what the hivemind demands. It means well, but the hive subsists on bland, easily digestible brain food and anything challenging this predilection will be roundly ignored.
For example, I’ll be shocked if any Top 10s include Fight by A Giant Dog, irascible, volatile Austin punks who released my third favorite album of 2012. The list, in case you’re wondering, is as follows:
If scuzzy, melodic punk rock reminiscent of X and The Neckbones is your thing, stick around. If you like a powerhouse frontwoman who’ll make you her bitch, today is your lucky day. If you don’t like either of those things, you need to talk to the karma police.
A Giant Dog – Karma Police
29th St Ballroom, Austin, TX
June 12, 2011
How’s that for a lead singer?!?! You may remember Sabrina Ellis from such Adios Lounge features as Bobby Jealousy: Dirtpop, Bliss and Desperation. That’s correct. My second favorite album of the year is from Ellis’ other band, so consider her my 2012 MVP.* Now, if only she’d come out of her shell and stop being such a wallflower.
As I said in the Bobby J post, Sabrina reminds me of a young PJ Harvey. However, in retrospect, it’s less the PJ of Dry (1992) and Rid Of Me (1993), and more the PJ who toured behind To Bring You My Love (1995). That’s when Polly Jean finally stopped hiding behind her admittedly formidable guitar tone and embraced her inner Jagger, adopting an alpha female persona that served her quite well. To wit:
PJ Harvey – Meet Ze Monsta
Glastonbury Festival, England
June 24, 1995
Now compare that with Ellis getting us hooked on megaphonics:
A Giant Dog – Pins And Needles
Emo’s, Austin, TX
January 5, 2011
Video: Shoot Good Media
While Sabrina is the stage-stalking cheetah with a heart full of napalm, the band ain’t exactly Chuck E Cheese robots. In fact, 3/5ths of A Giant Dog are in the OBN IIIs, an Austin punk band who shares labels with the Dog (Tic Tac Totally, more on them later). Andrew Cashen is on guitar/vocals, Graham Low is on bass, and band namesake, Orville Bateman Neeley III is on lead vocals instead of drums. Their sound is of a piece with AGD, maybe more Stooges/Dead Boys than X/Neckbones. Check it.
OBN III’s – Runnin On Fumes (2011)
Whether we classify this music as punk, garage, or garage punk, it’s really just rock ‘n’ roll. Your basic ingredients are a few chords, some rhythmic chaos, and a vocalist who probably screams or shouts as much as sings. 95 times out of 100 it’s unlistenable noise, but that’s OK. Not every fucking RnR band has to be The Who. That said, there’s something about A Giant Dog — and to a lesser extent, the OBN III’s — that takes those punk rock basics and makes the music go bang.
A Giant Dog – Strange
“Oh, I see it
I know you won’t believe it
Not a goddamn thing could make you change.”
“Strange” sounds like something John Doe wrote for X in the early ’80s and it’s simplicity personified. 3-4 chords, careening vocal harmonies, a cool organ part, and a rhythm section that sounds like it’s about to fly off the rails, but doesn’t. All that in a mere 1:31.
Therein lies the beauty of A Giant Dog, which is also the beauty of rock ‘n’ roll. These songs aren’t difficult to play, in the prog-rock/jazz sense of difficult. No 32nd notes, no 7/8 time, and no Berklee College hot shittery. If anything, I get the sense that the songwriters — usually Ellis and Cashen — had the basic song structure in place, worked on it with the band a few times to get the chemistry locked in, and then knocked the song out in 1-2 takes. And it’s perfect.
A Giant Dog – Chatterteeth
Another song that comes screaming out the gate and doesn’t let up, “Chatterteeth” could’ve easily been included on LAMF: A Study in Rock ‘n’ Roll DNA, right between The Humpers’ “Apocalypse Girl” and the Neckbones’ “Cardiac Suture.” More dirty girl punk rock and don’t act like you don’t like it. We got a better fix, that’s rock ‘n’ ro-ooh-oll!
To Put It Bluntly
At this point, I need to discuss one issue concerning the band, and it pains me to have to address it. As I mentioned above, A Giant Dog is signed to Tic Tac Totally, a Chicago-based independent record label. It was from said label that I ordered a vinyl copy of Fight way back in the spring. It never arrived, so I sent a polite follow-up email, which was never answered. With no recourse — and still wanting to hear the album — I finally downloaded it from Amazon. For the record, I wasn’t the only person to bring up this issue.
To add insult to injury, a couple months ago T3 released AGD’s follow-up to Fight, the “Dammit Pomegranate” single. Again I ordered the vinyl, again it didn’t show, and again I ended up downloading from Amazon. Here’s the deal: I’m all about supporting independent record labels, but being an indie doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility of promoting good business practices. This is in no way a personal attack, but rather professional. You gots to TCB. End of story.
So, with that backstory in place, here are two businesses who claim to have A Giant Dog’s brilliant album available for purchase. Caveat emptor.
Let’s replace that bitter taste of disappointment with the salty taste of beer, fistpumps, and bad intentions. I believe it’s time to get drunk and fuck another eyesore.
A Giant Dog – Cowboy + To Put it Bluntly
Emo’s, Austin, TX
January 5, 2011
Video: Shoot Good Media
“A Giant Dog tour can be summed up in three words — drive, play, party. Our perpetual lack of sleep is relieved nightly with that ‘fuck it’ moment on stage when adrenaline surges and we are recharged for the night to come.”
—A Giant Dog to Tribeza