Mike Keneally / Mike Keneally Band

Dog

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Mike Keneally's growth as an artist has been a pretty amazing journey, from the manic enthusiasm of Hat through the sublime and subtle Wooden Smoke to the jaw-dropping brilliance of The Universe Will Provide. All the while, Keneally has continued to push himself as a creative person, and Dog shows him stretching still further. The biggest difference between Dog and Wooden Smoke, Keneally's previous album (obviously, an album written for orchestra is a different beast altogether), is that Dog just rocks. This is easily Keneally's most muscular recording to date, with snarling guitars all over the place, and the band just tears into the material. Even so, the production is nearly as detailed as Wooden Smoke, with successive listenings revealing little tidbits and guitar parts that slipped by the first time. The songs themselves are complex but catchy, with elliptical riffs and rhythmic shifts that should come off sounding much trickier than they do, but this band (Bryan Beller, Nick D'Virgilio, and Rick Musallam) is so dextrous that it all sounds completely natural. Lyrically, Keneally brings new meaning to the word obtuse, but the lyrics are entertaining if sometimes puzzling. After all, what does one make of a line like "Special bee stings and enigmatic power maidens eager to date ya"? In addition, some programming and almost techno sounds make their first appearance on a Keneally album, notably on "Physics," accompanied by some crazy envelope-filtered guitars and bouzouki, and on the mind-blowing epic "This Tastes Like a Hotel." "This Tastes Like a Hotel" is a strange, distant cousin to "Lightnin' Roy," but ranges even further, running through techno, phased orchestra samples, general weirdness, hard rock, and an almost bluesy section that gives Keneally another chance to amaze with his guitar prowess before a brief acoustic interlude leads to the rocking conclusion. The other songs are more conventional rock tunes, but only by Keneally standards. He's got an immediately identifiable, utterly unique style, and it's pretty amazing how it continues to shine through even in wildly different contexts. Dog is another winner from a wildly talented artist who follows his own muse wherever it takes him. It's a shame more musicians aren't as confident and adventurous.

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