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coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 178 - 03/19/11

Dog Age
On The Garish Isles
Voices of Wonder

Happy Dog Age daze are here again! Finally! We got a message quite some moons ago saying the new Dog Age record was to be released in October 2009. It's the same old story... The booklet of the band's previous album Reefy Seadragon from 2006 informed that the next one was going to be a country record. The country 'did in fact turn out to be (purely by mistake, we might add) The Garish Isles!'. I'm not sure where that is, it sounds a bit Irish, but I cannot find them on my map. And the music of the album doesn't quite sound like Irish country. A state of mind seems to be closer to the matter.

Anyway, the Dog Age sound is like no other contemporary band's. To a large extent they still sound very much like themselves, even though the gang has expanded with a new semi-detached suburban member or three since last we heard from them in album format. Like Reefy Seadragon the newbie is filled with catchy songs, built on the best classic pop song fundament there is, meaning the one from the mid 1960s. Also, it includes the will to experiment with instruments, effects, lyrics... of the best British psychedelic traditions to make the songs last even longer. Call it psychedelia, pop-sike or simply pop with a twist. Anyhow it's classic pop music of noble vintage; it doesn't matter if it's from 1966, 1967, 2005 or 2011. Well, the above description is taken from my review of that previous record, but fits nicely with On The Garish Isles, too. In addition Dog Age now heads in a more acid guitar-rock direction, also a bit raga-rock and even a detour towards acid folk, or whatever. It still fits nicely with the Dog Age formula.

There are no cover versions this time. And all the five most attached members of the band are credited as songwriters. 15 tracks clocking in close to the 57 minutes mark. The familiar pop songs, the Dog Age way, dominate the first half of the album. "Flowergirl" is the instant catchiest hit candidate. Then several others follow suit after a few spins, like pearls on a string: "Icicle Ride", "Kill The Royalty", "Dynamo", "Favourite Building", ... Classic Dog Age pop! Well, some might think the latter to some extent drowns in a haze of psychedelic flanger and phaser effects, trumpet and cello. In my humble opinion, it's the coolest song of the lot, so far. The lyrics twist and churn on the English language. A quite normal example, off "Flowergirl": 'I have grown a beard, Since you've disappeared, It feels so weird, It drags me down.' But what about: 'The creatures like moaning, The lecher's returning, In confident mood, And swapping like housewives' off that favourite "Favourite Building"???

Some of the songs are in a class of their own. "Wonderfully" has a long dreamy intro before it turns into a slow ride accompanied by a lazy heavy guitar. "After All" is a baroque silly-sophically musing. "Fish In Water" starts in the same manner, but develops into something heavy-symphonic towards the end. "The Painter", drummer Øystein Jevanord's second offering on any Dog Age album, is a mystic instrumental with voice-over at the start that drifts away to some Asian highland on a bloated guitar. "In A Big Bag" sounds like a 1960s Mersey-beat standard coupled with a semi-heavy half-way choked 1970s guitar.

The two latter tracks, no. 8 and 9 respectively, seem to be the turning point of the album. On them and the remaining six songs - well, most of them - the guitars tend to get a little bit nastier and the instrumental and experimental excursions longer and wilder. The sitar seems to take a leading role. It culminates with the real mystery of The Garish Isles "Lord", a total religious surrender. After lyrics like the ones mentioned above and titles like "Left-over Spliff", "Lululand" and "Peter Pan Stalks" I cannot take 'Now I see your divinity, Oh my Lord, Thank you Lord, Thank you Lord for this moment of clarity, For this bliss, For this kiss from eternity...' seriously. The music of this song is another matter..., much closer to a Shiva hommage than any god originating in other regions or religions: heavy sitar and an effective cello in addition. It seems very appropriate that guest musician and former Hare Krishna member Rune Lindstrøm plays a mrdanga (an Indian drum) on this particular track. And coming to think of it, the cello lifts other tunes to new levels, too. A clever move to include cellist Tov Ramstad in a psychedelic pop and rock band!

I've only had this album for three days at the time of writing. But it sure is one of Dog Age's best, up there with Reefy Seadragon. I reckon Reefy Seadragon, with 13 tracks including one mediocre, to be among the very best ever to be recorded in Norway. On The Garish Isles includes 15 tracks that matches the ones on Reefy Seadragon, and none are mediocre. Most bands reach their creative peak when the members are around 20 to 25 years old. It's different with Dog Age. I have a suspicion this band is like vintage wine. The taste improves with the years passing by. Now it is about 23 years since Dog Age started up and there are no signs that the wine will turn sour yet. (Yes, I know that the band members are supposed to be beer drinkers, but still...) If Dog Age keeps on the track, we can look forward to the next album in a decade or maybe merely a half. The band assures us it will be a folkrock and power ballad album called Like Some Bacon In The Night. Wait for it!

Copyright © 2011 JP e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Dog Age articles/reviews: As It Were, Good Day, Reefy Seadragon, Swanlake Gate.

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