Blank Dogs, Cosmetics, and Grave Babies at Lo-Fi, Seattle | 17 April 2010
With bands that release as many records as Blank Dogs do, you kind of feel like you see them grow up right before you eyes. They are the kind of band that do not sit around mulling over whether or not to release something. My guess is that if they record it, they release it. Early songs saw Blank Dogs firmly in the difficult, dissonant category. Their songs tended to be un-melodic, poorly recorded affairs that only a mother could love. Since those early days the band, or at least top Dog Mike Sniper, has continued to evolve and refine its sound. Last year’s double album Under the Under had a decidedly friendlier sheen to it with some of the rougher edges smoothed and melodies coming to the forefront.
Blank Dogs continue to evolve, their newest 12″ Phrases sees them going for an early 80’s Mute and Factory sound and for the most part succeeding. I wondered how serious they were about this somewhat new direction. Was it a one off thing or the general progression of the band? If last night’s gig at the Lo-Fi is any indicator, they seem committed to sounding like early Depeche Mode and Movement era New Order, but on their own terms. The three piece set up contained a rig of wires and nobs controlled by Craig Mileski, Pamela Garavano-Coolbaugha on keyboard and second guitar and Sniper on guitar and vocals. Last year, they played the Funhouse with a full guitar-bass-drums set up and I came away disappointed. Last night I was fully prepared to be disappointed again when I saw the lack of drummer and bassist, but I ended up coming away more than a little bit impressed. The songs stood out, and the strong pre-recorded beats provided the scaffolding on which Sniper and Garavano could overlay their Bernard Sumner style guitars. Sniper’s vocals have come a way to being more captivating. He can still at times sound monotonic, but last night he came through loud and clear delivering the goods more often than not with minimal vocal distortion. Sniper and his Blank Dogs will probably be taking their licks for this new more synthy direction, but I like it, and the bobbing heads at the Lo-Fi appeared to dig it as well.
Locals Grave Babies opened with their dark, reverb-heavy goth and an annoying guy in a trench coat dancing on stage. Kind of like Fields Of The Nephilim with a Bez. Vancouver’s Cosmetics, also on Sniper’s Captured Tracks label were ok, but I wasn’t really feeling their neo-goth thing. Granted, they were plagued by bad sound that forced the singer to stand off stage to hear here vocals.