Dog is Dead @ The Thekla, Bristol 10.03.11

Described by the band themselves as “Louis Armstrong lost in disco”, Nottingham indie five-piece Dog Is Dead have moved from strength to strength with a growing fan base and even a stint on TV’s ‘Skins’. Quite surprising it was then that tonight’s gig was to be held in the pokey top room of the Thekla, with the band awkwardly stood on a small stage surrounded by Christmassy light decorations.

Mar 10th, 2011 at The Thekla, Bristol / By Richard Kemp
Dog Is Dead The boys kicked things off with new single ‘River Jordan’: a fine example of luscious, heartfelt vocal harmonies polished off with wild, swirling indie rock. As they moved into said harmony, however, they were met with a distracted crowd of punters who, in all honesty, looked more interested in their pints and the club night to follow than the band in front of them. Once people started to realise that Dog Is Dead had indeed begun to play and it wasn’t just a sound-check, things silenced a little allowing their five-way a cappella to float about the room. Perhaps this was how the lads wanted to make their entrance: unassuming and harmless, creeping in quietly to deliver a slowly loudening indie pop event that would eventually make people listen. Even still, you couldn’t help but feel that they should have just chosen a louder song.

Jaunty disco indie is certainly one way to describe Dog is Dead’s sound. Another might be folk-fuelled jazz or a cappella post-rock or even simple pop. This long list of musical ingredients became more apparent, almost to their detriment, as the boys went further through their somewhat short set. If anything, it was their insistence on blending as many styles as possible, jumping from one genre to the next in a matter of minutes and not really allowing the crowd to focus on what they had to offer, that made this set seem so short.

Dog is Dead certainly could become an impressive force if they perhaps knew what they were trying to offer their audience. Often coming off more like a Fleet Foxes tribute act than anything remotely new, the lads need to spend a little time finding their sound, which at times they seemed to hit upon only to lose it the next moment.

Mid-set, the bassist swapped his axe for a saxophone as the Nottingham boys jumped into their first release: the cunningly-titled ‘Glockenspiel Song’. It’s no surprise that this song has become so popular with its fun time organ melodies over merry rock rhythms. The crowd even began become alive, with some members of the audience singing along to the joyous gang chants of “So-o-o-o-o-o!”. Inspired by the crowd’s response, the lead singer and bassist/saxophonist took it upon themselves to join the masses and timidly slipped off stage onto the dance floor in perhaps the most anti-climactic fashion ever witnessed.

Once the lads had paraded slowly around and weaved in and out of their audience, they got back on stage and took it home to a fairly underwhelmed crowd reaction. These boys have great potential and are obviously all accomplished musicians but need to steer clear of mimicking established acts for fear of becoming, however well-performed, a parody of sorts.