Calling the Dogs invites you to an enclave of inflexible, but spearheaded (to put it mildly), self-reflexive vignettes. This album is stripped from the complexities of Citizen’s previous releases, instilling the kind of soul and bounce that their very first releases played with. Matt Kerekes brings a certain oomph to the mix, vocalizing a tastier texture that’s reminiscent of earlier punk-core alternative acts.
Intentionally, Calling the Dogs is an album that doesn’t take itself too seriously; and Citizen doesn’t want their fans to dwell in the “what if’s” of their discography. Songs like “Can’t Take It Slow” and “Dogs,” pin Citizen’s progression against a scenery of hard banging rhythms, colloquial to the edges of rebel-punk; although, long gone are the quality bass riffs that they hallmarked over the years, as well as their systematic approach to tonal, electronic-core atmospheres. From “Dogs”: “Pull me up / Give me some resolution / Tell me what is keeping you down.” It’s hard-hitting stuff, but too tidy, and that’s a resounding setback for this LP.
Nonetheless, these new scores illustrate Citizen’s circumference with thrasher rock, and though they’ve left their palpable electronic keys, their sense of style still flourishes, to an extent. “If You’re Lonely,” still ringing delightfully since its unveiling early in the year, proves how selfless the band is regarding their founding melodic principles. To be clear, Citizen is an ever-evolving act, and the world is better with artists like them; but, to say Calling the Dogs is imaginative in scope, fails to spell out the band’s current sonic thresholds. In short, aside from a couple songs in the vein of, “If You’re Lonely”, it’s hard to decipher the rest of the album as exciting.
While Matt Kereke’s lyrical nature rings across the board, “Headtrip” and “Lay Low,” over-extend the instrumental’s prowess undermining the singer’s capability to stand out. I fear that the album’s stocky instrumentals suffocate Matt’s prose, coming off as unclear tangents or even un-readable yowls. This is apparent in a song like “Hyper Trophy.”
The singer’s irk-like vocals address finite textures in Calling the Dogs, no doubt, but after the midpoint, there’s a surmising feeling of recycling. “Needs,” one of the album’s operas, lets the band deep dive into psychotropic woodworks. Ben Russin’s Hyperview-esc drums, and Kereke’s prose take a less direct approach, landing on a consistent set of emotions. “I’ve been dreaming / I’ve been sleeping / Never waking up again / Melody saves me once again.”
“Bad Company,” descends the LP into those monotonous particularities that were mentioned before. The songs just get drowned out by their short time-span, and unfavorable chorus work. “When I Let You Down,” especially, is too expeditious for my liking. When listening to the album in its entirety, this song’s pacing and context are so speedy that it’s easy to gloss over, and it pains me to admit.
Thankfully, “Options” pokes out as an excitable change of pace. It has groovy measures and a catchy whistle riff that make it a perky stand out, not to mention its mellifluous closing. The song has a catchy beat, and its addition to the album for the most part saves what the collection lacks. “Take time in a place where your mind hides / I used to know everything, now you don’t write / We’re chasing a feeling, and you know that ain’t right.”
The closing track, “Takes One to Know You,” brings me back to what vexed me since the beginning. I can’t play this song without mentally humming The Ramone’s “Blitzkrieg Bop”—and that comes with no salt— seriously it’s a real bother. “Takes One to Know You” is a real wrench in the gears, suffocating the LP in additional oddities.
Citizen doesn’t sway to individual album aesthetics, it’s one of the reasons I admire them as a fully faceted act. I know deep down they can come up with high-nuance, theoretical work that promulgate their capabilities. But Calling the Dogs is too rough, and it doesn’t necessarily make me ecstatic for the band’s position within their current diaspora. It’s even more of a letdown considering this is their first non-self-produced record in six years, so perhaps that was the wrong leash to tug to.