By Bradley Barnes
Texas has produced a number of excellent post-hardcore and noise rock bands since the earliest days of those genres. Austin’s Cherubs came out of a 20-year hibernation a few years ago, El Paso’s At The Drive-In (and the many subsequent spin-off bands/projects) developed a cult-following and Austin’s Scratch Acid were famously cited by Kurt Cobain as one of his favorite bands.
Austin-based trio Dining With Dogs are keeping that tradition alive with their debut LP, The Problem With The Friends, an album you might have missed, having been released on May 15th.
Dining With Dogs consists of guitarist/vocalist Mark Key, bassist Marcos Morales and drummer Josh Paul, all of whom are also members of sludge metal outfit The Dead See. While Dining With Dogs is a very different animal from the members’ previous sonic output, some of the atmosphere that The Dead See were known for can still be detected on The Problem With Friends.
While tracks like “Puzzled” and “Snowflake” can be described as heavy, this isn’t exactly a metal record. To get a good picture of what the band is going for in their sound, it’s best to take a look at the ’90s noise rock scene, particularly bands like Today Is The Day, Unsane, Hammerhead and The Jesus Lizard.
Riffs are angular, mathy and aggressive, while not being too abrasive; in fact, on the title track, “The Problem With Friends,” things get downright melodic, though with a palpable sense of melancholy. In fact, I would go as far as to say “The Problem With Friends” is my favorite track on the whole record, which is saying a lot, because there truly isn’t a dud in the bunch.
Key’s vocals have a raspy, half-yelled, half-sung quality that are at times reminiscent of David Yow (frontman for The Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid), and add a sense of desperation to the sonic attack of each riff.
Morales provides a meaty low-end, giving the riffs an extra little punch, and often provides the core melody for each track, as can be heard on “Fruit of the Poison Tree.”
Paul’s drumming keeps things in a nice lock-step, holding the rhythm in place on tracks that threaten to give way to unbridled chaos, and in the cacophony of the final minute of the record, actually allows the band to go careening off the rails.
The production on The Problem With Friends is decidedly more modern-sounding than the scrappy records that influenced it, but these dogs still have some pretty vicious fangs, and provide a pretty catchy soundtrack to an existential crisis, if I do say so myself.
Despite the muscular riffs and often aggressive vocals, Dining With Dogs have crafted a record that can be enjoyed by a pretty wide-range of listeners, from metal fans, punk rockers, noise fans and fans of underground ’90s rock.
Featured image retrieved from Dinging With Dogs Bandcamp Page.