Blank Dogs 

Under and Under

"Blank" is appropriate — Under and Under lists no credits for Blank Dogs whatsoever, aside from the mention of a small clutch of guest artists (including Vivian Girls and members of Crystal Stilts). While I suspect Blank Dogs might be a sobriquet for one fellow playing and singing all parts, we'll respect their plural moniker for the nonce.

The overall sound of Under evokes the early days of punk/New Wave synth-pop and industrial styles circa late 1970s and early 1980s: early Human League, Throbbing Gristle, and Cabaret Voltaire. These combos featured some catchy, captivating, electronically generated melodic motifs; vocals were often amelodic, indistinct, and creepy; and there was (intentionally) no commercial patina at all. This lot seemingly sought to be simultaneously engaging and disorienting, as does Blank Dogs.

While "Night Night" and "Tin Birds" sport direct pop hooks and pulsating rhythms, the hazy vocals sound as if they were being beamed in from a jerry-rigged short-wave set from Antarctica. Aside from synthesizers and crackling, lo-fi beats, Under's other highlights are terse, tense distorted guitars (think Jesus and Mary Chain, if you must) and a dark-as-an-abandoned-mine ambience (the song "Set Fire to Your House" is hardly a public service announcement), the latter of which by comparison makes Depeche Mode sound downright bubbly.

There's not a great deal of variety here, but for those seeking a touch of zoom with their gloom, Under and Under is a most pleasant diversion. (In The Red)

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