Beark Your Head Off, Dog
I live in a world where the heroic are Ye Gods or Politicians. Since I gave up on the Gods, and the UK doesn't have one single leader who dares lead, I really had to cast pretty wide for something, for something to somehow feel less disconsolate, less desolate. A couple of years ago, while searching, I found Frances Quinlan singing, and I realized maybe everything could be okay after all.
And now, here comes the first LP I have been waiting for this year, Hop Along's Bark Your Head Off, Dog and you know how anticipation ruins everything ever? That sentence doesn't even deserve a ? That's just so. Bark Your Head Off, Dog contains not one disenchanting note, though, many, many, deliciously disconcerting ones.
The weight on the shoulders of the few bands that want to rise to meet some unseen unspoken challenge is immense. That want to do what no one else has done. Stretching boundaries maybe as an old man you thought couldn't be stretched further or again since the Stones laid down Start Me Up or the Jam put out a box set or Bowie did something. Or something. Anything please but music from muso's for music's sake. What's music to you?
Hop Along are up there with the great ones, Pavement comes to mind, Dirty Projectors and their investigation into what indie rock can be now. The Supremes, Big Thief, Blondie and maybe you know how because of the sheer greatness of those Blondie players, how great that band always was, how Debbie Harry's voice, just led her band to places that neither they nor her might have found had Clem Burke and co been more deferential musicians. Hop Along is not staffed with accommodating types either. In drummer Mark, there's a player with just such incredible feel for taking a song to exactly where it needs to go, and guitarist Joe and bass player Tyler, the sum is massively more than the incredibly intricate and sleek parts of this machine. Oh Wow! Shall we leave it at OMG! So. All that for you to unpick. Then dive in from there and drown yourself in Bark Your Head Off, Dog, because it's dense, it's serious, it's emotionally immersive, it's musically and lyrically enthralling. And you'll probably never have to listen to anything else again.
Oh and It's entertaining.
(embarrassing unofficial fan art)
Frances Quinlan, is of course, as stated elsewhere and most everywhere, a once in a generation voice. And her lyrics in lines here and there remind me of the menace Irish writer Chris Connolly captures in his short stories. From Hop Along's Horseshoe Crabs, on the album Painted Shut,
"Against your wishes, I went into the woods alone..."
Grasping such freedom can be so scary for all concerned.
And so, Bark Your Head Off, Dog. Nine songs, subtle, sly, sleight and epicly joyous headlong rushes in to wide open spaces full of inexplicable shadows. Sometimes gushing with restraint. Especially perhaps when compared to the earlier Painted Shut. From the opening words of How Simple, all building, all the while building and building all the way until the opening cadence of the final track, Prior Things, a beautiful push of majestic momentum powered by strings and guitars, and you know, it could end up being assimilated by one of those global corporations for a commercial that fails to reassure that your life means a damn to anyone, least of all them, like that Elbow song did. Lets hope Hop Along are above all that.
On so many of the tracks, it sounds like Frances Quinlan stares back into her own song with incredulity. Everything is changing all the time. On What The Writer Meant, even God changes... But still born aloft on the wonderful and complex melody that Hop Along produce.
How simple my heart can be, frightens me.
Frightens me too.
Bark is an It record for sure?
and Don't worry,
we'll find out,
just not together.
Listen to Hop Along on Spotify
I like to look at things while listening to things I am not looking at. But doesn't everyone.