The Dogs

The Grief Manual

Written by: AP on 21/01/2018 15:01:28

Norway’s hardest working rock band, The Dogs, stays true to its promise of issuing a new album on the first Monday of every year — a tradition the Oslo-born outfit has upheld for six consecutive years now with the release of this latest outing: “The Grief Manual”. It is pretty remarkable that the band is able to sandwich writing these records between the relentless touring they do and succeed in imbuing them with lasting value, yet exactly as its predecessor, “Death by Drowning”, the album defies the haste with which it was conceived and often leaves the listener in disbelief of how breezily catchy the material turns out to be.

The Dogs’ thing is to balance heavy lyricism with an oddly exuberant soundscape, and one glance at the title of the record, as well as those of the individual tracks, will reveal that the Norsemen stick to their guns in that regard. Indeed, in a moment of déja vu, the album opens with a bang, serving up a trio of infectious high-octane singles in best garage rock’n’roll fashion to hook the listener onto the band’s paradoxical ideas. The tone is uplifting, the rhythms driving — but Kristopher Schau’s words are dark and paint an abject portrait of life. Yet roaring along to choruses like ”Give up all hope / Give up on your dreams / There’s less to the sky than meets the eye / We work and we sleep and we fuck and we die” and ”All your words are fabrication / All your stories your invention / All your actions, dead intent” against a backdrop of classic punk, with organ and three-chord riffs played in major in the tracks “The Children He Loves the Least” and “Told with Bad Intent”, always feels more cathartic than depressing. Despite Schau’s pessimism, the record lifts you up rather than weighs you down, even when the band tones down the energy and shines in moody ballads such as the touching “Primitive Etchings”, which draws a thick line under the baritone vocal capabilities that Schau possesses. Listening to songs like it, the references to King Dude that are common to articles about The Dogs do make sense — especially in conjunction with the Norwegian group’s live attire of black shirts and undone white neckties.

Unlike the self-proclaimed ‘Luciferian folk’ artist, however, The Dogs never stray from their cheerful tone to embrace the darker complexities of rock music. While it is true that “Primitive Etchings”, “Hindsight” and “Prelude to Murder” all steer the album in an ominous direction as Schau lays bare the feelings inspired by parents’ alcohol abuse, one scarcely even notices the chilling undertone for the casual manner in which the three tracks are presented. Indeed, Schau insists on maintaining an ironic distance to these matters that so obviously affected his childhood and continue to shape his person even today and as a result, the listener needs not be ashamed by the urge to dance, jump and sing along with the band. Those urges do grow less powerful as the record enters its final third though, as the novelty of The Dogs’ style once again starts to wear off. The songs at the end have trouble measuring up to the infectious bombast of especially the initial third and it is tempting to place the blame with a pressing lack of variety. The group’s penchant for pushing simple ideas to the maximum of their potential deserves some merit but it does not suffice alone to hold the listener in thrall of them. In that sense “The Grief Manual” is also very alike to its predecessor, which caught my attention, rewarded it and then gradually waned as the minutes grew older. Still, the handful of irresistibly catchy garage rock tunes that the “’Manual” nonetheless packs makes it a worthy addition to anyone’s record collection.


Download: We Were Made Out of Loss, The Children He Loves the Least, Told with Bad Intent, Hindsight
For the fans of: Backyard Babies, The Hellacopters, Honningbarna, King Dude
Listen: Facebook

Release date 01.01.2018
Drabant Music

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