Blank Dogs is certainly something of an enigma. The Banksy of the noise-pop scene, he remains pretty much anonymous, choosing to hide his face under bed sheets or bandages for press photos. But the solidity of his work suggests that instead of being merely a cheap gimmick to attain notoriety this mystery serves to let the music do all the talking, and judging by the endless string of limited edition releases that have emerged over the last few years and now this, his latest full length, they argue a pretty good case. The one thing we do know about Blank Dogs is that it's singular but for this album he enlists the help of label mates Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls. The results are impressive.
There seems to be a constant and for the most part welcome stream of fuzzed out noise punk assaulting my ears at the moment but what makes this sound stand apart from all the rest is that its emphasis isn't on 60's rock inspired, redlined garage guitar but opts for programmed beats, synthesizers and a heavy dose of 80's post-punk, goth and new wave. Much like On Two Sides, Blank Dogs' previous album, Under And Under rolls with a deep bass structure, effect laden guitar and a voice so submerged it could be from a different universe altogether. The title of this new release suggests the direction by which it parts company with its predecessor. The booming muffle of these songs impressively drags all that we learnt from On Two Sides way down to almost indecipherable darkness.
The genius of this record is the way he manages to elaborately construct his songs around distant Cure basslines while layering his monotone Joy Division vocals without ever sounding like a rip off. Setting Fire To Your House has a core that is straight out of The Cure's A Forest but it's a sheer delight. It seems to borrow all of the sounds that defined my early musical appreciation and drag them all under water to their deaths. Things are slowed down to a relentless mid-tempo and with all the effects that swirl around the feeling is like watching flash-backs of your life disappear under murky slush. Cutting through all this slush is the screech of distorted guitar that rudely imposes itself on standout songs like No Compass and Around The Room. With scant regard for anything this guitar carves out some of the most surprisingly satisfying melodies ever seen in this genre.
Unlike the recent Crocodiles record that at times seemed to find it hard to let loose the weight of its influences, Blank Dogs serves up a masterclass of how to honor those influences but treat them as starting blocks from which this guy springs forth very successfully. The last bedroom genius of this genre I got excited about was Wavves and as we've just witnessed his very public fall from grace lets hope this hooded enigma has more to offer.