Grafting nu-folk whimsy onto the grand-scale emoting of Arcade Fire is big business in 2012, from the multi-million selling antics of Mumford & Sons and Noah and the Whale to advertisers using earnest, homespun ditties to flog everything from mobile phones to life insurance.
Latest to step into this crowded marketplace are Nottingham youngsters Dog Is Dead. The ambitious five-piece’s debut, All Our Favourite Stories, is one that Atlantic must be hoping will do even a fraction of the first-week trade that the Mumfords’ second album, Babel, managed.
Whether they ultimately catch on or not may depend largely on the public’s appetite for more of the same. While this is a confident and at times sharply written debut, there’s little to suggest that Dog Is Dead bring anything new to the table.
Rather, tracks like Teenage Daughter and the big, look-at-me harmonising of Hands Down offer hook-heavy, clinically executed takes on Win Butler’s songwriting style, with sprinkled nods to spiritual heirs like The Maccabees and Bombay Bicycle Club.
The problem is that the band seems altogether too comfortable working within this already well-worn idiom. Without the gravitas of some of their peers, the results can feel like too transparent a gesture towards festival main stages.
As such, recent single Talk Through The Night’s polite suburban angst is nice enough to secure even Ned Flanders’ approval, while Two Devils makes us wonder when teens started coming over so confoundedly wistful in song. It sounds like Cat Stevens sitting us on his lap to explain a few things about how the world works.
But Get Low and Any Movement are two of their best and least-forced sounding recordings. The former revels in a ghostly sense of space, and the latter has a stately, Simple Minds-ish sweep that suggests a maturity not generally audible elsewhere. There are nice production touches throughout, too.
Maybe this record will make Dog Is Dead stars, but it’s unlikely to make them a better band. Want the advice of an old curmudgeon? Cool your heels, lads: you might end up making something more interesting.
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