You'll get no apologies from The Format when it comes to dissecting their brand of rousing, straight ahead pop music. Sam Means and Nate Ruess, the bright, prolific duo who make up the new Elektra group, both barely scraping their early 20's, have crafted a sparkling, spirited 12 song hook-laden epic that defies you not to hum along. The debut is a cocktail of diverse flavors, with emphasis on the singer/songwriting nucleus that mixes a knack for Beatlesque melodies with `80's styled layerings, including big fat drum machines, idyllic synths and maybe even a handclap or two.
Every great power pop band is all about two things: meaty melodies and oo-la-la choruses, and there's no disbelieving that this Phoenix band have the formula nailed on their sophomore album. Produced by a master of the genre (Steve McDonald, founding member of Redd Kross), the 12-tracker advances the Format's debut album by sandblasting pocketfuls of hooks and poetic prose into the consciousness. Band leaders Nate Ruess and Sam Means progress like a modern day Colin Blunstone/Rod Argent, zigzagging Zombies-like through a piano-led, choral-like pool of tuneful experimentation and falsetto intonation. The band make it almost too easy to pick out potential radio gems, which include up-tempo numbers like "Time Bomb" and "She Doesn't Get It," and especially "Oceans," with its glee club chorus that's downright impossible to shake. But Dog Problems
must be heard as a whole to appreciate the dexterous brilliance of Means and Ruess, who apply a '20s dancehall vibe to the title track, turn the narcissistic "I'm Actual" into an Abbey Road
waltz, and even flirt with country music in the discreet "Snails." Like the Zombies, the Raspberries, Dwight Twilley, or the Shins? This record may be for you. --Scott Holter