Serious, heavy rock. As the opening track, “Medicate,” zooms into focus, the song explodes with raucous energy. Not long after, however, it finds a solid rhythmic footing in the verse. The drums are full and vibrant, the guitars biting and perfectly balanced between melody and noise. The vocals are confident and straight-forward. There’s a 90’s “plausibility” to the sound emitting from Like Dogs’ 5-track EP, The False Starts. Despite this, there are plenty of invigorating and inventive moments on the record, bristling with a refined and present production quality.
There’s a certain level of nostalgia ingrained in the sound of the EP overall, from the vanilla heaviness of the opening track to the chugging insistence of “Sleeping Truths.” As a person who grew up in the grunge-rock mecca of America – Seattle – I feel I have a fairly informed perspective on what Like Dogs are attempting to do, even when it moves beyond grunge with the bombastic lead synth on the second track. But rather than remaining inside the safe barriers of pop-structures and chord progressions of a bygone era, the epic and engrossing “Sleeping Truths” surprises and surpasses the tone established at the beginning of the record, blossoming in full by the end.
As the record progresses, the guitars never slip from that precarious perch of delivery both coherent melodic information and noise; the drums never stray from the energy of a given song, and accompanying synth layers serve as an altar upon which Like Dogs makes its sacrifice. The dark, groovy power of “Find My Way” rides on a powerful beat and expert guitar arrangement. The sudden and purposeful obscuring of the voice at three minutes-forty feels unnecessary and a bit distracting, but it doesn’t linger.
“Countless Times” feels like a conscious departure, embracing a far more open arrangement with room for vocal harmonies and a greater range of dynamics. There’s a classic or timeless quality to the feel of the song; its aesthetic confounds with both its strange newness and nagging familiarity. There’s something comforting about that. It evoked memories of my youth, but slightly blurred and idealized.
The EP ends with “Problematic,” which continues with the open format arrangement: less glazed over with grunge-rock fuzz and more articulate. Leaning on a muscular yet complex rhythm, the song succeeds in establishing a specific mood of anxiety and wonder. The world of this record is both frenzied and gorgeous, constantly building itself out in chaotic splendor. From one song to the next, Like Dogs displays a raw yet elegant musicianship and a singular compositional style. Great care has been taken to honor the influences behind this music without eclipsing the natural merit of the artist’s own ideas. The tidy production assists in communicating both the nuanced and obvious sonic concepts employed here, and it’s worth mentioning that without the competent mixing and mastering of this EP, some fraction of my enjoyment would have suffered.