3 out of 5
Produced by: Tom Grimley, that dog.
Even having lived through it, it’s easy to forget that grunge was a definite thing. 90s music has a sound, for sure, but it’s mixed with a lot of the post-80s, pre-00s weirdness – the dawn of digital music; the culture starting to progress in quicker leaps and bounds – and Nirvana took over so completely, that “true” grunge can get mixed, in memory, with the shinier stuff that soon followed. But then when you root around in the used bins old DGC / Sub Pop yore, you find those albums that, yeah, are 100% flannel and snarky angst.
I do / don’t have nostalgia for that period; also, good music – I do believe – cuts through generations. that dog.’s debut is very grunge, and very 90s. It’s also good music. But Anna Waronker, Petra and Rachel Haden, and Tony Maxwell are working within the confines of the scene at this point, and it creates quite a split between crunchy (and fun!) tracks like Old Timer, and the harmonized, California pop that they’d embrace on following releases. That scene also requires everyone to be bratty youngsters, which furthers the split: lyrics are either full of Whateverness – Westside Angst – or of a more emotive and clever quality, though the latter shies away from depth as soon as they get there, to maintain that cool detachment.
Here and there, we get a preview of how that dog. would more successfully combine these elements together, such as Raina’s transitions from strings to rock, or closer This Boy’s anarchic clatter; we also get less successful mash-ups (Angel) that I’m sure felt “different” in ’94, but come across a bit rushed now.
The production (Tom Grimley and the band) definitely has trouble marrying things together, though the forefronted bass sound and treatment of the vocal work does sound pretty awesome, it’s just more fitting for the punkier moments.
But don’t get confused: every track on here is quality, and quite fun. The album is imperfect, though, and definitely sounds more of its era than the better rounded discs which would follow, making “fun” sort of the limit of its reach.