I admit, it took a while for this album to really grow on me. Because my musical tastes typically take me elsewhere, I wasn't used to the bouncy, jaunty sound of this band... But when given a chance to germinate in the brain, every track on this disc becomes irresistible.
The Format felt some pressure from their label to duplicate their 2003 debut, INTERVENTIONS AND LULLABIES -- but when Nate Ruess and company decided to stick to their own vision, the label lost interest. What came of their trials is the 2006 follow-up DOG PROBLEMS (released on their own imprint label), a collection of catchy indie pop that, with its boisterous bevy of guitars, keyboards, and horns, sparkles with whimsy and humour. The tracks breathe with variety, spanning different moods and tempos -- often within the same song -- while employing quick, witty lyrics.
Listeners can easily enjoy these tracks for the melodies alone, but mining the lyrics reveals something else altogether. Catchy and jaunty these tunes may be, but superficial and vapid they are not. Multiple listens are a must, because grasping both the sheer cleverness and the wide scope within the lyrics can hardly be done at one go.
Wordplay and interesting metaphors are abound. The listener can be moved to laugh in one moment (from "She Doesn't Get It": 'I've read every word you've said/From the poster of a cat/Four books look across your sofa/I thought your coffee table/Was more clever than that') and take pause the next (from "If Work Permits": 'It's a shame what your father did to your brother's head/When he smashed it with a telephone/...You were only four/But lord, you remember it'). Some messages are more oblique than others ("Snails" was apparently inspired by a runaway dog), but the cheeky jabs in "The Compromise" seem clear enough ('I wouldn't call it a sophomore slump/I'd say I'm one step closer to being just/Where I want/To be').
Despite the mostly upbeat sound in this album, love gone awry does come up as a running theme. DOG PROBLEMS seems to suggest that we often have a love-hate relationship with Love itself; just as we're on the verge of giving it up altogether, love's possibility traps us once again.
I give this album a play whenever I need some music to pick me up and charm me. Most played: "Snails", "Oceans", "Time Bomb".