by Wendy Case
The press release that accompanies the debut album by Toronto’s Golden Dogs suggests that the sing-songy pop rockers are Canada’s “next big thing.” If this prophecy were to materialize, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. In fact, Canada kind of owes us one for Jewel.
That said, the band, helmed by singer-guitarist and songwriter Dave Azzolini, turns in a fine first round with this — a buoyant, heartfelt and, at times, rockin’ foray into traditional album-oriented pop. Think the rapture of an amped-up Starsailor without the call to the Suicide Prevention Hotline.
With a showstopping opener, “Birdsong,” and Azzolini’s thrillingly diverse arrangements (dig the calypso breakdown in “Elevator Man” and the cool-cheesy synth and Eno-esque guitar in “Bastards”), the Golden Dogs swing through these 12 tunes with gleeful, if somewhat careful, dazzle. While the melodies and arrangements are engaging, Azzolini’s brilliance can almost brilliant you to death after a while. And there are a couple of moments that are derivative to the point of homage (“American Waltz,” while lovely, sounds like the redheaded stepchild from Beck’s Mutations). But when he takes a break from being clever, as he does on the weirdo closer, “Big Boy and the Masters of the Universe,” it leaves you wishing that Azzolini would lose his grip a little more often. He’s good, really good. When he forgets how good he is, he’s even better.
Wendy Case writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.