Personnel: Andrew Cashen (vocals, guitar); Sabrina Ellis (vocals); Andy Bauer (guitar); Rachel Scherr, Amber Cobourn (violin); Graham Low (cello); Leslie Matthews, Daniel Casas (saxophone); Samuel Rives (trumpet); Ian Johnston (flugelhorn); Jake Knight (piano); Orville Neeley (drums); Amanda Gregory, Amanda Rockyanne Bullwinkle (background vocals).
Audio Mixers: A Giant Dog; Mike McCarthy.
Photographer: Steven Ruud.
Following a pair of spirited self-released outings, Austin punk outfit A Giant Dog make their Merge Records debut with Pile. With Spoon producer Mike McCarthy at the helm, the band's boozy, glammy garage punk gets a subtle studio makeover, though it would be a stretch to call the overblown crunch ripping through the speakers polished. Fronted by co-singers/songwriters and Houston natives Sabrina Ellis and Andrew Cashen, A Giant Dog retain their knack for pairing relatable melodies with sweaty, full-bore intensity, avoiding the more predictable leather-panted rock swagger in favor of weirdo party-rock inclusiveness. Their targets are the freaks, geeks, and general outsiders, much like themselves. Pile's press release name-drops a host of colorful '70s characters like Slade, Sparks, Marc Bolan, and Alice Cooper, and as far as comparisons -- or more likely influences -- go, they're more or less on the money, albeit with more of a punk approach. Freewheeling standouts like lead single "Jizzney" and the especially glammy "& Rock & Roll" are equal parts sugar and grime and 100 percent fun. Likewise, the sizzling brass-adorned boogie rock of "King Queen" and the defiant punk of "Too Much Makeup" have hooks for days and the kind of energy that can only be summoned from the heart of the beer-soaked club scene. The album's only real dynamic shift comes near the end with the acoustic psych of the Tyrannosaurus Rex-esque "Get with You and Get High." It's a nice breather on an album that, in spite of its highlights, sticks around about three or four songs too long. A Giant Dog aren't necessarily offering anything that hasn't been done before, but Pile is definitely a fun listen with enough bright spots and kinetic energy to sustain it. ~ Timothy Monger