by Derric Miller
– Managing Editor –
One of the most weirdly awesome bands in the world are back, releasing a brand new studio album after an eight-year hiatus called Sweet Nothings. Yes, that band is Dog Fashion Disco (DFD). Their seventh release is better than being the “vultures that peck out your eyes.” (See, crazy! Those are their lyrics, and it gets so, so much better …)
You can try to classify DFD but it’s nigh impossible. They get lumped in with bands like Faith No More, which is fair to a certain point, but it doesn’t scratch the surface any better than a scalpel on a bloody coconut. DFD is extreme in every way … meaning they can play a pop, syrupy hit song, while the next song is closer to death metal, and the next song could be a jazz composition. There’s no boundaries with them in the past, and the present is no different.
You would think that after eight years, the band would want to come out and wallop you in the head with a polkadot cadaver. You’d think they’d have their knives out. Instead, “Greta” is a solemn, brooding keyboard composition. One thing that always makes DFD stand out is the lyrics, from the insanely creative singer and lyricist Todd Smith. It will amaze you that his lyrics are as flexible as his voice. When he sings “Love made me a leper … it’s bad for my health,” you believe it. The tone of his voice carries longing and fear; it’s all eerily believable. You get a sax solo from Matt Rippetoe and just from the start you know, keep expectations in your pocket. You can’t know what’s next.
Of course, they weren’t going to lay out two mid-tempo songs in a row, so you get “War Party” next. John Ensminger’s drumming is battle-ready. It’s violent and brutal. You get circus like keys in sections, and heavy riffing in other parts. The chorus is a shouting declaration, but the quirkiest part is when it turns into a metal version of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” When Smith starts tearing into this passage “Napalm-Cyanide-Burning bodies-piled high-Hiroshima-Vietnam-Jesus Christ-Islam-Cold War-Communism-Palestine-Zionism-Holocaust-genocide-mass decay-suicide,” your blood will boil. But this is anti-war sentiment all the way, so if you have a gun, unload it.
Get out your jazzy disco pants because “Doctor’s Orders” will have you dancing like you just shat your pants. This is the side of the band that always amazes. If you listen to an older DFD song like “Baby Satan” you’d not know the same band wrote/performed “Doctor’s Orders” unless you are already a fan. The funky song still hits you with lyrics like “Suicide was once my valentine; now she’s laying beside me under the sun.” It’s maybe not a track you’ll go back to as often as some of the others, but the talent and musicianship is laudable.
But ‘cmon … vultures! “Envy the Vultures” is the kind of metal anthem you were waiting for when you knew DFD released new music. The clanky, heavy, rage-filled song almost makes you uncomfortable, both from the jarring musicality but the weird seizure-inducing interludes. The chorus is brilliant: “I envy the vultures, no conscience inside. All they can eat just as soon as it dies.”
DFD does have a sense of humor, although it’s covered in gore and usually bleak as hell. Ladies and gentlemen, “We Aren’t the World”! The song crescendos after a couple of sedate, droning choruses, but then the song expands to a damnation dissection as Smith sings “We aren’t the world, we aren’t the children. We are anesthetized as we multiply.” It gets all circus-y again towards the end, and Smith sings in a harsh rant “May you choke on your tongue! May your blood fill the streets!” Like “Envy the Vultures,” this is one of the best tracks on Sweet Nothings.
Versatility abounds when you land on the title track, “Sweet Nothing.” It almost has a “dance” beat, meaning … yeah, sort of a club vibe. What do you expect from a band you can’t define? You feel both dirty and groovy when you sing along to lines like “Sweet nothings whispered in my ear, tell me all you crave, now tell me your fears … tell me your desires, not what I want to hear.” Seeing/hearing this in a live setting has to be musical perfection.
It all wraps up on the bluesy, acoustic song “End of the Road.” (See how they did that?) Speaking of versatility, you’ve heard Stepp play solos and churning riffs but this is lets him show acoustic chops. With keys, horns, and sing-song lyrics, it feels like a Southern hymnal at times. It’s purposeful, especially when you hear “But I feel that pale death creeping in … this must be the dead end of the road,” sung in a hymn style.
And the artwork … did you see the artwork? That’s somehow a visual metaphor for what you’ll hear on the album … slathering rage, ghostly and airy nuances, innocence gone rabid, dashes of melodic color painted over groaning homogeneity, and a funky handwritten band title to foreshadow the grooves and jazz interspersed throughout.
Sweet Nothings is everything.
Genre: Circus Metal
Matt Rippetoe-sax, woodwinds
2. War Party
3. Scarlet Fever
4. Tastes So Sweet
5. Doctor’s Orders
6. Envy the Vultures
7. Approach and Recede
8. Down the Rabbit Hole
9. We Aren’t the World
10. Struck by Lightning
11. Sweet Nothings
12. Pale Horse
13. End of the Road
Label: Rotten Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 9.1/10
Follow Derric on Twitter @millerwriter