that dog.: Old LP Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, December 16th, 2019  

that dog.

Old LP

UMe

Nov 27, 2019 Bookmark and Share


In 1997, that dog. released their last LP, Retreat From the Sun. It was brash and delicate, full of distorted guitars and whip-smart hooks and it should have dominated FM radio. But, it didn't, and that dog. quietly slipped off the radar as the new millennium began.

Now, 22 years later, that dog. have a new record for a new era, the somewhat-ironically titled, Old LP. Once a quartet, now a trio (violinist/singer Petra Haden is no longer a member), that dog.'s sound has grown exponentially since their last album. Singer/guitarist Anna Waronker and singer/bassist Rachel Haden still create the band's signature close-knit harmonies and interlocking guitar and bass parts and drummer Tony Maxwell (perhaps one of the most underrated drummers from the '90s) still cracks the sticks behind them as though nothing has changed.  

And yet, everything has changed. Old LP sounds reflective and cathartic, and, for that dog., it is a much newer, broader sound. A sound that spans the divide from 1997 to 2019: immense, more compact, but also more introspective. That dog. can still unload a mass of fury with Ramones-style speed when the need arises, though. "Just the Way" and "Down Without a Fight" sound like classic that dog. They are both three and half minutes of oppositional defiance laced with sharp guitars and biting lyrics. "You don't own me/but you owe me/I'm not going down without a fight," Waronker sings. Her words land like a punch in the face, the same way they do on rocker "Never Want to See Your Face Again." The song is skillful and self-explanatory"If there was ever a better time to put yourself aside/it was with me"and it makes for a hell of a fight song, a kiss-off anthem for troubling times and troubled hearts.

But bitterness isn't the main arena Old LP dwells inside of. More than enough of the album is nostalgic, delicately crafted, and finely honed. It sounds like a yearbook full of old regrets but also bright futures. The songs acknowledge their younger, 20-something selves and reconcile them with who they are now. "When We Were Young" is a wistful, harmony-laden, guitar driven pop song that could have easily been situated between Side A and Side B of R.E.M.'s Out of Time. "Your Machine" bows to the passage of time over plucked strings, and "Least I Could Do" is plaintive and shot with optimism with a pair of opening lines that would sound saccharine coming from any one besides Waronker: "I think it's gonna be ok/I think we're gonna find our way home." 

As listeners, "Bird on a Wire" and album-closer "Old LP" bring us into the personal realms of the band with emotional candor. When you close your eyes and listen in to these two tracks, it sounds as though that dog. never left, they were just waiting for us to come back home. "Bird on a Wire" builds to a heavenly crescendo of guitars, drums and harmonies, atop Waronker's golden voice: "It's okay if I want to run...It's all I've ever known/And all I've ever done." It's a song made for aimless drives with ex-lovers or old friends, and it lingers like a surgical scar. 

"Old LP" is the most expansive and orchestral song that dog. have recorded. A tribute to band members Rachel and Petra Haden's father, Charlie Haden, a jazz bassist and composer, "Old LP" brings in an entire symphony orchestra to achieve an exquisite send-off. "I hate that there's no choice/that I can't hear your voice/unless it's on an old LP," Waronker sings, with added harmonies from friend and fellow musician (and actress/comedian), Maya Rudolph. Horns and strings swell along the steady pounding of timpani and bass drums. Then the song shoots up toward the sky and comes back down to Earth in time for a final chorus. Fittingly, Old LP ends with a round of applause.

Old LP is a steady, hard-won set of songs that unfold after many, compounded listens. The album took many years, many rehearsals, and many short, crammed studio sessions to record, but the reward becomes clearer with each listen. "Dim the lights/put a record on/say goodnight/to your favorite song," Waronker sings on "Old LP." After 22 years, can it really be that simple? Yes, sometimes it is that simple. Sometimes your band shows up at exactly the right time. (www.thatdogofficial.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10



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