by Josh Ginsberg (@world0fdarkness)
Talking Dog is an indie rock band and the first song on their first EP is about playing indie rock. “Dazed” is probably the most compelling and nuanced song about this experience in a while: it’s markedly less tritely romantic than Les Savy Fav’s “Pots and Pans” and offers a more thorough and nuanced portrait of the psychological and social implications of making music than, say, Art Brut’s “Formed a Band” ever could. “Dazed” traces the experience of going to college and hating going to college, of “[sleeping] on the carpet” “somewhere in Bushwick”; standing “naked and forlorn” at “8 PM at Piano’s” and the belief that if he and his friends could get together and make their own scene, greatness could await.
Of course, the perspective from which Noah Ruede sings on “Dazed” is hardly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Talking Dog is not Ruede’s first rodeo. Even though stripes of optimism flash throughout “Dazed,” one of the most profound things about the song its depiction of how inhospitable a music scene can be. Ruede taps into what it means to exist “naked and forlorn” at “8 PM at Piano’s,” the type of New York music space you will not have heard of unless you spent time trying to play music in New York City between 2009 and the present and not having very much luck. Then and now Piano’s (and the now defunct Olsen Twin coke-den Lit Lounge, which Ruede mentions as well) were music spaces whose shows would rarely be listed in Showpaper and whose old school proprietors would rarely mask their disdain for your craft. The inhabitants of the bars usually fit neatly into two categories: (1) people trying to have dinner at a generic Lower East Side bar who have no interest in seeing a show and (2) the people actually playing, who stand in a mostly empty room, minds occupied by thoughts of (a) how surprisingly shallow the stage is and (b) how few friends were able to make it out to see them play, even though they invited everyone on Facebook 4 weeks before the show took place and sent clever reminder texts to everyone the morning of.
Although the experience of coming up (and not blowing up) in New York’s music scene can indeed be demoralizing, atop a cadence that mirrors the hammed-up rhythmic raising of one’s eyebrows, “Dazed” captures how downright exciting it can be to publicly humble yourself. The harmonic fabric of the song matches the emotional content of its lyrics, switching from major to minor and buoyant to dissonant as Ruede expresses how joyous playing an ill-attended gig at an uncool venue can be, when the alternative is wasting time in a Student Activity Center, divorced from anything you care about. “Dazed” is also a romantic ode to the magic of a Bridge-and-Tunnel person’s commute into Brooklyn via New Jersey and manages to evoke the innocent thrill experienced by every New York transplant during their earliest visits, before the cynicism set in.
Throughout its duration, Resolution Loops addresses the question of why people bother to pursue childhood dreams in the years after childhood’s end. On the churning, gauzy “Deathwich,” Ruede reckons with the discomfort of feeling complacent in the adult world and questions whether that complacency is a symptom of laziness or propriety. Reude explores the fear that he can’t escape a disposition and set of values he believes he should have, by now, outgrown on “Inner Child,” a charging song that pairs the muscle of Dinosaur Jr with the jangling, angsty romanticism of The Head on the Door. The passing of time nibbles at all of us, but the visions Ruede employs (like “writing your will from the afterlife”) communicate the weight the prospect of a wasted life possesses and the silliness of thinking of life in such terms. The silver lining of the Ruede’s existential angst comes when you double back and note his grammar on the chorus of “Deathwich.” When he sings about “ruing the passage of time,” he does it in the past tense, as a memory, as if he’s transcended it. When Talking Dog rides again--if they decide to once again yield to the “ghost” Ruede so reviles--it will be interesting to see how the added perspective, and how the act of music-making is characterized at that juncture in Ruede’s life.
See the mathy, catchy Talking Dog perform with Personal Space, Jangula and Low Fern in support of Resolution Loops at Brooklyn’s Pine Box on August 11th.