The debut album from Nottingham five-piece Dog is Dead is an assured if uninspired first step into a music industry that has not been kind to indie music of late. In fact, so desolate is the alternative music landscape that five years ago was a cornucopia of opportunity that there really is only room for one band at a time to find any kind of success and, on this evidence, it is hard to see Dog is Dead dethroning Mumford and Sons at the top.
‘All our Favourite Stories’ opens with the plodding but strangely uplifting ‘Get Low’, with the slightly ballsier ‘Teenage Daughter’ and ‘Talk Through the Night’ the other highlights of the more country-influenced first half of the album. Opening single, the re-released ‘Glockenspiel Song’ introduces a more experimental, jazzy sound to proceedings, while closing tracks ‘River Jordan’ and ‘Any Movement’ make use of a slightly moodier, electronic sound which compliments the vocals reasonably well.
Overall the album’s sound is based around a variety of haunting, harmonised melodies that at best create a rousing, almost epic choral sound reminiscent of early Coldplay and at worst just sounds like a bony hipster wailing down a hallway.
Musically Dog is Dead are guitar-light and orchestral synth-heavy, often along the lines of a slightly less punchy Modest Mouse and at times even bordering on the latest twenty-first century attempt to bring back The Cure – though again the basslines and vocals lack the kind of edge that defines great indie music.
Lyrically and vocally Robert Milton give the strong impression of having spent much of his childhood listening intently to Julian Casablancas as he almost seems to be channelling the former Strokes singer at times, particularly on tracks such as ‘Do the Right Thing’, while the vocal harmonies are (often literally) echoes of the kind of hearty singalong popularised in recent years by Mumford and Scottish rockers Kassidy, and feature prominently on such songs as ‘Hands Down’.
This is an efficiently constructed album; Dog is Dead are proficient, well rounded song-writers with a wonderful range of influences but sorely lack their own spark of originality, which at too many points makes for a formulaic, pedestrian and above-all safe debut which will not stick long in the memory.