Release Date: May 6, 2016
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
Some of the best hard rock songs give little glimpses of a soft, damaged heart beating beneath all the rage. Think about that little bit of major chord respite offered by the "when you're high, you never ever wanna come down" part of "Welcome to the Jungle" or the "I've been to the edge, and there I stood and looked down" monologue of "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love. " These gentle flashes invite you into dangerous orbits, despite their narrators' warnings, with an illusion of safety that makes you overlook the whole "and you're gonna diiiiiiie" part.
“I could watch you die and not feel a thing,” Sabrina Ellis, frontwoman of Austin raunch rockers A Giant Dog, sings on “Creep”. It’s the second song on the band’s third full-length effort, Pile, and just one of many that gleefully sneers at anything in the mere vicinity of sweet sentiment. And that’s OK, especially for those of us who believe that rock and roll is weird, ugly, unapologetically dirty stuff.
On Pile, A Giant Dog’s newest record (and first for Merge Records), the Austin band doesn’t waste a lot of time. The quietly operatic (and eponymous) intro track suggests that you should get your breath now because this group is about to take off at a dead sprint. For the next 14 tracks, A Giant Dog delivers a kind of timeless rock ‘n’ roll zeal that’s equal parts blistering underground fuzz and arena-sized shining swagger (so part Oblivians, part T.
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.
As the popularity of Sweet Spirit froths the ears of even casual observers to Austin's music scene, Andrew Cashen and Sabrina Ellis' pre-existing punk band gets drafted by an important record label and releases their most inspired work. A Giant Dog's fourth punning platter – House, Fight, Bone, and now Pile – arrives comparatively light on melodrama, brimming with live fast/die young missives instead, anthems of restless spirits who drink love and life from the same red plastic cup. AGD "piles" the album's front end with an unblemished five-song sequence beginning with loathing love song "Creep" and ending with Thin Lizzy doo-wop recipe "& Rock & Roll.