Dog Day

Night Group

(Tomlab; 2007)

By Clayton Purdom | 7 July 2007

Yes: indie rock. Music of the gods, our shared cultural heritage. Indie rock, you are clever; you are sloppy and filled with hooks, when good; you are supple and thinly stupid; you are inspired by Pavement but do not sound at all like Pavement. You are "our" genre, a ready term in our increasingly moot attempts to construct a self. Let's not fight it anymore. Let's not designate ourselves as fans of every-genre-but. When I ask my friends what they're listening to, I don't want to hear a list of metal bands, and I don't want to have to respond with whatever early-90s rap album I've dredged up. Let's just acknowledge that we're all still listening to indie rock, if not predominantly so then at least reassuringly so. What else could explain popularity of Tapes 'n' Tapes? I'm speaking presumptively here, but the vast majority of us started with unadorned indie rock before we toed toward greener pastures ("Prurient!" "Da King & I!" "Steely Dan!" we shout in turn). It's understandable that we would hunger for the sounds we've loved for so long to resurface in freshly inspired forms.

Dog Day is that type of band. Night Group is that type of record. It is an album that abandons great songs for a great sound: one with (yes) guitars, some drums, bass, some keyboards, boy/girl vocals. Dog Day's sound is a brick wall and Night Group is their monument to the idea of bricks. There are times, as during the early verses of "Career Suicide," when it sounds like you (nebulous reader) and I (untalented critic) could've been the band at hand, had we a practice space and some beer. But then those unremarkable structures leap into a careful, bored (never boring) series of hooks before finally running free in a cartwheeling outro, a 153-second sleeper bliss-out. Only five of these twelve songs, in fact, dare touch a toe over the three-minute mark, but each possesses, in its brilliant grey way, a certain epic melodiousness.

That these falling lovely melodies emerge from such a pale racket and as lines like "I'm in no rush, I'm in no rush," or, alternately, "There is no cure," simple declarations of almost clinical stoicism, is Dog Day's central triumph. Thus the joyous bottle rocket blast of "Sleeping, Waiting" stuns more effectively, the introduction of start-stop dynamics makes the outro of "End of the World" a true climax, and those occasional bald, miserable proclamations ("Place to place every town looks the same") are all the more harrowingly realistic. The slow sadness at the core of this release speaks volumes in its subtleties. It understands that depression feels most often like boredom, and the truth of that sentiment is the point from which all this fine musicality flows. So many bands avoid the indie rock tag by making mansions out of songs -- Menomena's screwed-n-chopped emofunk, Deerhoof's self-conscious quirk, the Shins' pristine classicist songcraft. Dog Day eschews these mansions for cookie cutter houses peopled by extraordinary folk. Not as flashy, to be sure, but I know where I'd rather hang out.