A Giant Dog

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Toy Review

by Timothy Monger

Austin indie quintet A Giant Dog follow up their raucous 2016 Merge Records debut with Toy, another gnashing romp through the darker recesses of party rock. It's the band's fourth outing overall, and while they haven't necessarily shaken up their formula, they continue to own the stage by sheer brazen force and an unwavering commitment to their own sense of outsiderdom. Co-fronted by Houston natives Sabrina Ellis and Andrew Cashen, A Giant Dog present a united front of straight-up rock & roll menace that feels a bit threatening, kind of gross, and weirdly seductive. It's a cocktail that has fueled rock's appeal for generations and even though America's contemporary indie landscape is littered with swaggering garage punks plying similarly brash wares, it's nice to hear it done without either the slacker irony or the too-earnest pursuit of authenticity. Like everyone, A Giant Dog arrive at their sound by a collection of influences, from the bruising sludge of the Stooges to the druggy sparkle of T. Rex, but there is an immediacy to their particular approach that helps to distinguish them. As the unyielding might of tracks like the horn-stacked "Toy Gun" and the string-enhanced "Lucky Ponderosa" wash over you, there's a compulsion to bend the knee and swear fealty to the temple of heavy blown-out sweat-rock. The general craftsmanship of Toy is solid enough and offers a handful of more nuanced cuts to break up the assault -- like the slow-burning "Survive" and a charming cover of Sparks' 1982 classic "Angst in My Pants." A Giant Dog's greatest strength, however, remains their ability to tap into the enduring elements of rock's true grit and create feelings that are appropriately cathartic, dangerous, and fun.

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