Review Summary: The Noise Punk and Lo-fi genres, both of which are getting less and less credible, get another kick in the face from this undercooked and banal album.
Despite his supposed anonymity, a listener can use context clues to figure out what kind of person Blank Dogs is. He’s a man who enjoys distorted guitars playing simple chords, sometimes in beat with or out of the rhythm of the rest of the instruments. He enjoys the simple 8-bit-esque saw wave synths, with their jarring texture and the ability to manipulate them with ease. He must also be a fan of that one vocal effect that makes it sound like your voice is speaking through an intercom or underwater, considering he uses it, you know, on every song on the entire album
(I still can’t tell if it’s some kind of silly supplement to his “anonymous” persona, or some effect he found while messing around on his microphone or mixer). He doesn’t seem to like writing lyrics, or at least ones that are possible for the listener to hear. However, other than that, Blank Dogs is pretty much open for interpretation, pertaining to his identity and what kind of person he is. Pertaining to the album, it’s only the truth that Blank Dogs has conceived an entirely boring and mediocre album.
Starting off with “No Compass,” Under and Under
adheres to the stereotype of modern “lo-fi” music with an irritatingly scratchy guitar part, muffled and indecipherable vocals, and a simple, pounding drumbeat. A listen to the following song, “L Machine,” doesn’t change anything either. Nor does the third track, “Night Night” (although fourth track “Open Shut” slightly modifies the formula with modest success). It goes on. The same whining synth and mangled guitar are always taking the front lines here, with Blank Dogs’ bland vocals taking somewhat of a backseat position. With one exception, the songs never allow themselves to stand out or do anything different, which leads to a monotonous and uninspiring listen. The exception mentioned above is the extremely enjoyable “Tin Birds,” which features typical shoegaze guitars (read: not distorted this time) and a simple drumbeat. It’s nothing original, but it works very well, especially when contrasted against the rest of the songs.
However, one song cannot save this exceedingly banal album from songs like “Setting Fire to Your House” and “Blue Lights,” both of which sound like some awful post-punk bastardization of 80’s dance music. The drum machine and synth combo doesn’t work especially on these two songs, evoking visions of some kind of creepy haunted-house disco.
Overall, Under and Under
confirms everybody’s worst fears about the genre of Lo-fi, sacrificing enjoyable melodies for repetitive and uninteresting song structures that, in the end, succeed in alienating the listener and turning many potential fans away. Blank Dogs, if he expands his palette, could have something going here, but right now it’s a heap of undercooked tunes that are all carbon copies of each other.