A Giant Dog: Neon Bible (Merge) - Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, November 24th, 2020  

A Giant Dog

Neon Bible

Merge

Sep 25, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Arcade Fire's Win Butler was one prescient dude when his band put forth the apocalyptic Neon Bible in March of 2007. The album opened with the song "Black Mirror" which foretold of an era of digital obsession a full three months before the launch of the iPhone. Not only that, the U.S. was, unbeknown to most, in the final surging innings of fast money via subprime mortgages. A half year after release of Neon Bible, the country found itself in the opening throes of The Great Recession. If Butler didn't exactly give us the specifics, the tone was set for rough waters ahead and a sea change of relational and economic dynamics.

Flash forward a little more than a decade, and Austin trash-rockers A Giant Dog, given the choice of covering any Merge album they like in honor of the label's 30th anniversary, choose to race through Neon Bible. Not quite the predictive Orwellian gap of 30 plus years from the publication of 1984, Neon Bible nonetheless remains remarkably relevant. We find ourselves in a current day where the black mirror in fact reigns supreme, leaders issue off the cuff tweets, and the escapades and untimely deaths of social media influencers are widely reported. More importantly, the void of ideologies is about as broken as it's been. As Butler voiced a dozen years back that's now echoed through A Giant Dog's Sabrina Ellis in one of the reboots rawest moments—"who's gonna reset the bone?" A question that seems as unanswerable today as it was then.

But on to less weighty matters, how does Neon Bible circa 2019 in fact sound? Trimming a solid nine minutes off its running time, the Ellis- and Andrew Cashen-led band give the work a bum's rush while also tapping its angsty core. Not surprisingly, A Giant Dog is most effective on the punkier takes. Ellis' breathless run through "Antichrist Television Blues," a song never given the credit it deserved, heightens the anxiety of the original. Preceded by a bass heavy and just as briskly paced "The Well and the Lighthouse," the two songs make for a solidly landed one-two punch. The gritty take on the opening "Black Mirror" is no less urgent while also making room for keyboard runs and Cashen's harmonizing that invert the Butler and Régine Chassagne formula well.

Not that all of this remake is simply a blitz on the original versions of the songs. The garbled synths and treated guitars of the title track are particularly moody, while the flatulent synths of the closing "My Body is a Cage" give way to a slow study on isolation that builds to a impassioned close. Whether mixing things up on the Cashen-led and reworked "Ocean of Noise" or simply insuring that Ellis hits the warranted level of histrionics on "Intervention," A Giant Dog gives us a not so subtle reminder that we still don't have it all figured out. The band also delivers one heck of an entertaining listen and gives us back nine minutes in a nod to our attention-deprived state. (www.agiantdog.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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