I fell in love with Aaron Ruby before I listened to his music. The multi-cellular organism that comprises all of Dog Brain wrote in his pithy biography, which you will shortly read as something barely biographical, that Dog Brain is the moniker of Chicago-based musician and audio engineer Aaron Ruby." After reading that and the description of Dog Brain being an amalgamation of styles (I haven't heard that before!), I settled in to listen to the self-titled work, fully prepared to excuse all but the most egregious of faults. I didn't have to excuse any. This is one of those artists who makes music where there is so much fun stuff going on. He sounds like every awesome CD I ever found in the $1 bin. At its heart, Dog Brain is a rock album, and a damn good one. Owing its aesthetic to punk, Dog Brain recycles styles and sound to be reused in his dementedly fun compositions. He samples, he emulates, he improvises, he sings in several different styles.
I can pick out the Brill Building sound, the Rasta touches, Ramones, a BUNCH of New York experimentalism in the 80s, the crunchy funky bass, the damn-it-all production value and… Dude, there is even an honest-to-God attempt to sound like Michael Jackson in "(Whatever Happened to) Charlie Bear" and it doesn't blow up in your face. I can smell the drugs, the alcohol and the loneliness that went into this album. Erratic structures, poppish but with a healthy dose of weirdness, keep the raw-sounding songs and still maintain a sense of structure, albeit a sense ready to collapse at any minute. Let the final song, "My Red Rocket" (possibly a canine masturbation reference, given the album's weird, sometimes scatological, sense of humor), be the most representative song on DOG BRAIN. More than 10 minutes of upbeat, offbeat garage rock exploration. Reverb hula-hoops around gravelly vocals and angelic guitar until the song evolves into something descended from the Music of the Spheres…or at the tail-end of 80s arena rock. I'm going to throw out some names: Ween, The Velvet Underground, The Shaggs, James Ferrero, The Danforths, Beck, Beat Happening, Meat Puppets, Dinosaur Jr., New York Dolls, Funkadelic, The Stooges, Sonic Youth, Thee Oh Sees. Did any of those stir anything in you? Good, check out Dog Brain.
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