A Giant Dog

Toy (Merge Records)

Texas Platters

Nine years and four albums through their career – and presently two LPs into a deal with North Carolina super indie Merge Records – A Giant Dog's modus operandi is well-established. Lines between punk, glam rock, and art-pop running like watercolors in a pre-K classroom, the local fivepiece soundtracks much off-Broadway high drama grounded by guitarist Andrew Cashen and lead spectacle Sabrina Ellis' Siamese Twin lead vocals and superior songcraft dealing with messy twenty-(now thirty-)something lives. That's served them well, but nearing the decade mark in any group generally means it's time to fuck with the formula.

For starters, Toy breaks with Mike McCarthy, producer of last year's Pile and the debut long-player by A Giant Dog sister act Sweet Spirit, Austinites also led by Cashen and Ellis. Enter Stuart Sikes, helmsman of game-changing records for luminaries including the White Stripes, Modest Mouse, and Reigning Sound, who worked with Los Lobos' Steve Berlin on Sweet Spirit's recent sophomore disc St. Mojo. Play the latter back-to-back with Toy and you'll hear Sweet Spirit absorbing A Giant Dog's pummeling punk energy even as A Giant Dog reaches for Sweet Spirit's broad gestures and more experimental bent.

For the most part, Cashen/Ellis chafe against messy living. "Fake Plastic Trees," possibly rock & roll's first tune to name-check Whataburger, effectively eviscerates young slackerdom in a lyric reading like a Facebook status update: "I've never had a car to drive, but I've got shit to do today/ Can someone please give me a ride?/ It's on the way." Likewise, "Photograph" strips away any bar romanticism that might exist in a one-off screw, singing of wanting to "see you with your saggy tits" and "kiss you when your teeth are brown." Eight songs in, influences puff out their chest on a cover of Sparks' New Wave classic "Angst in My Pants," done more in the Maels' rockin' mid-Seventies style.

Toy doesn't dog-Pile its predecessor, and in eschewing a straight-ahead continuation of the same-ol', A Giant Dog continues marking distinctly new territory.


A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More A Giant Dog
Playback: Will Johnson’s Eternal Newness
Playback: Will Johnson’s Eternal Newness
“Playback” challenges Will Johnson to a home run derby and uncovers seven things you didn’t know about A Giant Dog

Kevin Curtin, Feb. 9, 2018

Glimmer Twins
Glimmer Twins
Sabrina Ellis and Andrew Cashen instigate A Giant Dog Pile

Tim Stegall, May 6, 2016

More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
X: The Godless Void and Other Stories (Record Review)

Alejandra Ramirez, Feb. 21, 2020

Texas Platters
Daniel Johnston
Chicago 2017 (Record Review)

Raoul Hernandez, Feb. 21, 2020

More by Tim Stegall
Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
The Unity Show, Swass Nites, a King Crimson offshoot, and more recommended shows

March 3, 2023

Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
The Linda Lindas, Momma, Caramelo Haze, JaRon Marshall, and more highlight our recommended shows for the week

Jan. 13, 2023


A Giant Dog

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle