Song of the Day: That Dog, "Long Island"
That Dog's Retreat From the Sun turned 20 years old on Saturday, and they celebrated with a front-to-back performance of the album with a concert at the El Rey. It was awesome, full of aging hipsters like myself who made special plans to go out and shout along like they used to.
On the surface, That Dog sound like a relatively typical post-grunge alt-rock outfit, and their biggest hit "Never Say Never" is one of their least evolved—it's sonically fierce but reliant mostly on a big honking riff in the chorus. (Tellingly, the band sort of breezed over it during the set, partially because it comes pretty early in the tracklisting but also because it doesn't seem that interesting to play.) But they actually deploy quite a few bits of sonic weaponry, including a knack for off-kilter harmonizing and a willingness to flesh out their guitar/bass/drum arrangements with various strings (band co-founder Petra Haden, who is no longer a member of the group, is a classically-trained violinist). "Long Island" has a big hook in the chorus but also features a handful of harmonic dips and structural dives that would have confused modern rock radio programmers in 1997. But it's a smash from a parallel universe, particularly with lines like, "By definition a crush must hurt, and they do/ Just like the one I have on you." Sleater-Kinney's Dig Me Out also turned 20 on Saturday, and while it remains a more definitive historical hitching post in female-fronted rock, Retreat From the Sun shouts, frets, and shakes it off with just as much aplomb.