Review Summary: Poor production brings down an otherwise fairly successful comeback release.
Dog Fashion Disco's 2006 effort Adultery
was a phenomenal avant-garde metal/jazz/spoken word/country/everything record. It was also their last release before their break-up in 2007. However, seven years later, they are back, with a host of shows on the horizon, a renewed energy, and a new record titled Sweet Nothings
-- the subject of this review.
The album opens with the dark, jazzy "Greta." Featuring a great saxophone solo, typically excellent vocals from Todd Smith, and a distinct sorrowful atmosphere, it is a fantastic introduction. Imagine a smoky jazz club. You are the last one inside and you're sitting at the bar and have had a few (or more than a few) drinks, and your suit is askew. You're thinking about a woman who has abandoned you. She's gone, and you know it-- but that doesn't mean you're going to give up on getting her back. This track paints a beautiful picture. What a disappointment, then, that after it ends we are thrown abruptly into a generic heavy metal riff backed by an annoyingly flat drum sound. "War Party" isn't a bad song, but it really disrupts the atmosphere that "Greta" had going. I get that Dog Fashion Disco is an 'everything goes' band and abrupt changes are to be expected, but in this case such a tonal shift doesn't really work.
This brings me to one of the record's main problems-- production. Sweet Nothings
is marred by a muddy guitar sound and poor mixing job. One way that poor mix manifests itself is in the vocals. They are way too quiet in spots. Take "Tastes So Sweet" - the chorus vocals are ridiculously low in the mix. Why? This is absolutely baffling to me, because it really hurts the song and mitigates an incredibly catchy hook. Also, as aforementioned, the guitar sound is muddy, and the drum sound is very flat. It's a shame, because these are great songs for the most part-- the production hampers them.
The album hits a pothole in the middle with "Approach and Recede," a rather generic (by Dog Fashion Disco standards) metal number. "Down the Rabbit Hole" follows and is a much more exciting track, though it's again hampered by poor production-- the vocals are way too quiet. With better work in that department, this song could have been an album highlight. Thankfully, the actual album highlight "We Aren't the World" comes in after it. This is a song that manages to transcend its muddy production job due to the strength of the songwriting and melodies. I especially love the use of "It's a Small World" juxtaposed with heavy circus metal.
Ultimately, Sweet Nothings
is not a bad record; it's just a shame that the mix is so poor. Were the sound clearer, this album would be infinitely more enjoyable. The muddy production casts a shadow over the entire affair, not rendering the record unlistenable but detracting from its overall presentation. Todd Smith mentions in the Untitled ending track (a 9-minute thank you to those who pledged money for the album's creation) that the band is recording a follow-up record next year. I hope the production is better, because if it is, we may have one of the best records of 2015 on our hands.