Songdog – A Life Eroding

Bloody hell, this album is fucking gorgeous!  I’ve been aware of Songdog ever since I Love My Angel’s Plastic Wings appeared on an Uncut compilation CD something like eight or nine years ago, and I’ve tried to get into their albums a couple of times since and never quite succeeded.

They’ve always felt a bit ponderous, honestly, although they have also felt like the kind of albums which take a bit of time and attention to get into, and I must confess that I’ve never really given them what felt like enough of either. It’s weird that you can spend so long – nine years! – kinda flirting with a band, but never quite crossing the room and asking them to dance.

Songdog – I Love My Angel’s Plastic Wings
[audio:http://songbytoad.com/tunes/Songdog-ILoveMyAngelsPlasticWings.mp3]

This record, on the other hand was instantaneous.  The first time I listened to it my grin just broadened over the first three or four songs, and then settled down into a smug smile over the course of the rest of the album.  I have finally clicked with Songdog; back catalogue, here I come.

What’s the difference?  Well I don’t know, maybe it’s just my state of mind, but there is a wonderfully light touch to this record.  It’s got a shitload more going on than I remember with this band, but those richer arrangements have been applied in such a confident, well judged manner that it actually feels like there is less here – it’s less dense, less cloying, and much livelier.  It’s almost as if by adding something they’ve been able to take something away.

It’s the strings which really make an impression on this album.  Songdog have always produced pretty downtempo music, with a sort of indulgently slow pace and thick atmosphere, but the strings here are absolutely gorgeous, and seem to be able to lift the lighter moments, and bring a kind of solace to the moments of pathos which the band haven’t, to my scant knowledge, quite achieved before.  There are even trumpet solos; sad ones, I’ll grant you, but trumpet solos!

Then there’s the lyrics.  From the start Songdog have been adept at moaning away about how shit and ordinary life is, in the most maudlin possible manner, and then dropping in the kind of turn of phrase that stops you in your tracks.  I have not infrequently found myself rewinding their songs just to check that I really did hear what I think I just heard; did they really just sing “I’m nobody special, but I give pretty good head”?  Why yes, yes they fucking did.

These moments work like a ukulele strum, in that they are like a chink in the clouds, bringing necessary moments of levity to lyrics which are generally quite cynical and full of the woes of everyday ordinary lives.  With the more expansive arrangements they’ve been able to bring that same light touch to the music as well, and the result is an album which is an absolute joy, and makes me feel a bit stupid for not having made enough time for this band years ago.

Songdog – 3.30am (Small Talk)
[audio:http://songbytoad.com/tunes/Songdog-330am-SmallTalk.mp3]

Songdog – An Old Man’s Love
[audio:http://songbytoad.com/tunes/Songdog-AnOldMansLove.mp3]

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