There's an unassuming modesty about Big Eye Little Eye, the second album from Toronto's the Golden Dogs. Mistakenly lumped in with the "Canadian Invasion" bands (beware the usefulness of any label that takes in a country that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific), the Golden Dogs actually have far more in common with second-tier '70s bands such as Wings and Supertramp than with compatriots the New Pornographers or Broken Social Scene.
In this case, "second-tier" amounts to sturdy guitar and keyboard pop and fairly undistinguished songwriting. Lead singer/songwriter Dave Azzolini has an appealing, keening tenor and a way with hooks that recalls Beatle Paul after he replaced John and George with his new wife and a couple guys named Denny (Laine and Seiwell). And just like Paul, Azzolini's wife -- one Jessica Grassia -- plays keyboards, handles occasional lead vocals, and harmonizes throughout. Together they produce the kind of pleasant singalong fluff that Wings churned out throughout the '70s. Unlike Paul and Linda, they layer on the buzzing Weezer guitars and make a racket. Think of it as Wings on steroids. Azzolini falls flat when he aims for the profound. "Saints at the Gates" is a clumsy anti-war tract, and "Painting Ape," the album's lone foray into psychedelia, merely sounds like a bad trip. But he's at his best when he keeps his sights small, the guitars buzzing, and the hooks direct and simple. "Never Meant Any Harm" is a pure power pop confection with throwaway lyrics, and "Runouttaluck" churns along on spiky new wave guitars and a singalong Go Go's chorus. Grassia turns in her finest moment on "Construction Worker," an impossibly infectious song about nothing more substantial than being stuck in traffic. And just in case you've missed the obvious, the Dogs cover McCartney's Band on the Run chestnut "1985." It's a solid cover by a good, not great, band. And that's the essence of Big Eye Little Eye. It won't change your life. But if you're snarled in rush hour congestion, waiting to get around those orange construction barrels, it may make the time pass more pleasantly.