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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Mike Keneally

Dog

Review by Josh Turner

Nick D' Virgilio says he's done his best drumming on this album. With so much great material to date, it is hard to validate a statement such as this one. I think he is the best drummer today. I also believe he did some of his best work on "Octane". He has the chops, but he's also the grooviest of drummers. While he struts his stuff on the latest Spock's Beard album, he performs a ton of fantastic feats in this one as well.

The vocals are weird and the harmony is extremely odd. The instrumentals, on the other hand, are tight, but still manage to be adventurous. Before hearing this album, I wasn't familiar with Mike Keneally beyond his contributions on NDV's solo album. For those of you in the same boat, you'll find this is quite unlike anything else (I guess you could say in a good way). The compositions are hard to swallow at first, but it really becomes easy to digest once you've developed a taste for it (the album that is, not a hotel). As mentioned, this is probably best suited for Frank Zappa or Flying Food Circus fans. It's definitely not for everybody. If you can appreciate good musicianship and an affinity to be off the wall and spontaneous, "Dog" could be the right pet for you.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Louie
From the onset, you come to realize this will be one unusual album. The song parades itself all over the place. The public display and posturing by this untamed beast is quite unsettling.
Bober
This is sparse and simple on the surface. The contents are geared towards a fifth grade reading level as the lyrics are comparable to See Jane Run. Under the fundamentally basic façade, the instrumentals are freakishly tricky.
Splane
While the groove is along the lines of Hootie and the Blowfish and possibly Dave Matthew's Band, it is certainly Mike Keneally. NDV's drums are like a fishhook in the gill. He'll reel you into this catchy vessel. It's short, but it makes time for a clever guitar solo somewhere in the middle. I like everything about this song. The vocals are captivating; the instruments are hip and trendy. Would you have guessed that "Splane" is slang for "Explain?"
Pride Is A Sin
This almost has a Brooks and Dunn country beat, but it's unquestionably rock in the Lynyrd Skynyrd sense. It combines diametrically opposite charges. These unstable elements will put you on edge while the underlying electromagnetic forces will keep you plastered to your seat. Other bands that come to mind are Jughead and Jelly Jam. You'd think Ty Tabor or the Bissonette brothers were sitting in on the session.
Simple Pleasure
The wacky gets even wackier. Take a splash of the Beach Boys, slap in a little Samla Mammas Manna, and bring the Flying Food Circus surfside. A fan of the aforementioned bands would certainly get satisfaction from this one since Hasse Bruniusson seems to share similar tendencies
Physics
It's still bizarre, but it goes in a totally different direction. It's fast and often hectic with some incredibly mad maneuvers. It's not driving straight by any measure, sometimes going randomly into reverse. A lunatic is behind the wheel and he's totally out-of-control. Get off the street right now and lock your doors! Your well-being will depend on it.
Raining Sound
In respect to the other numbers, this has a real nice and pleasing beat. It's quite listenable and doesn't get too unruly. The sound comes down like the pitter-patter of rain. While the weather is wet and foggy, there is nothing too torrential about it.
Choosing to Drown
I'm not sure why anybody would choose to sink over swimming. They would have to be completely whacked out of their mind and lack any motivation to persevere. Yet, this seems to be the case with this song. There are just too many pressures pulling our protagonist out to sea. Like a riptide, resistance is futile. It's easier to give in than suck water when paddling gets you nowhere. When our character finally tires, he's inclined to give up and let the waves carry him away. However, the tide changes in his favor. After treading water, a lifeguard hands him a buoy, dragging him to safety. Clutching for the sand and hacking water from his lungs, he escapes this dangerous premise. Let this be a lesson to us all to work through troubled waters since safe-harbor could be only a few strokes away. What's strange is that once this oddball gets his breath back, he swims back out to the deep end again. This scenario is insane, so it makes sense that this song is retrofitted with outrageously goofy lyrics. Good thing the lifeguard is on duty, but what this silly nitwit needs more than swimming lessons is a good shrink. In any case, the song is really that odd and outlandish.
Gravity Grab
This piece pulls us in the opposite direction. It's like a balloon dancing on the wind currents. Every time it starts to descend, air streams bump it back up again. I can't tell if these guys are serious about their music or just plain acting nutty. The lyrics are whimsical and witty. The music is bright and breezy, but still a tad bit absurd. Passages of this song could be perceived as the well-known calypso from "Gilligan's Island".
This Tastes Like A Hotel
I'll take their word for it. After all those "Dateline" specials, the last thing I want to do is taste a hotel. The melody moves without any rhyme or reason. It's the longest piece and the most improvisational of them all. Aside from the overdubbing of several special effects, I'd have to assume they got it right on the first take. I can't imagine anybody sitting down and composing this kind of material. The music is truly avant-garde. It's an interesting read, but I don't see myself skimming it again anytime soon. It's enough to take in and reflect on after the first scan.
Panda
The last track is fun and playful. Since dogs and bears evolved from relatively the same species, this is an appropriate end to the album. This song appears to be a take (a bizarre one at best) off of Jagged Edge's smash hit "All Out of Love". If you haven't started feeling awkward by now, the band emphasizes their creepiness in the closing stages of the album with this downright deranged serenade.
 
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