This review was written in 2006 and originally published on AbsolutePunk.net. It has been very minimally edited before being republished.
At the proverbial heart of the record everything about this sophomore full-length is actualized in the form of one solitary line. Let me explain: Midway through the album sits the title track, “Dog Problems,” and midway through the song, the music gently wilts and Nate sings, “Can you hear me? Are you listening? This is the sound of my heart breaking and I hope it’s entertaining. Because for me, it’s a bitch. Was it worth it when you slept with him? Did you get it all out of your system?” If there was ever a defining moment in what is sure to become The Format’s opus, this is it.
While the opening track of the band’s debut (“The First Single”) is probably the song that gained them their first fans, we have what is almost the antithesis in the first track of Dog Problems. “Matches” begins slow with a circus-like musical atmosphere. The tone for the album is set and the track bleeds seamlessly into the next (“I’m Actual”). The listener should take note to the lyrics, they’re all there for more then a hook or clever line. “And let’s take the next hour to talk about me, and we’ll talk about me, and we’ll talk about me …”
The casual Format fan may be dismayed by the first two tracks of the album. This fan may be wondering what happened to the catchy pop that filled their first disc. If you haven’t been following the progression the band took with Snails, it’s easy to find yourself out of place. But don’t for a second think the band has forgotten about their uncanny knack for writing songs that etch themselves into your brain-waves. “Time Bomb” has a chorus that should be studied for its addictive properties. “She Doesn’t Get It” contains one of the greatest Duran Duran references ever (do you get it?) as it appears to lament casual sex. And the back-beat and bass-lines of “Pick Me Up” drive the song to epic dancing proportions.
While the aforementioned songs impact with their hooks and choruses, it’s the next seven that make the album an almost instant classic. Listening to the variety of instruments and stinging social commentary (“… boys with swooping haircuts are bringing me down, taking pictures of themselves …”) can only be experienced. It’s impressive by every definition of the word and no words I type will do it justice.
Stand out tracks include “Dog Problems,” the choral arrangements that accompany “Oceans,” (which I am pushing to be the second single), the horn section and lyrical gems of “Dead End,” and the heartfelt “Inches and Falling.” In fact, the only song I am not crazy about is “The Compromise” – which is ironic seeing as it is this album’s lead single. I think this realization shows not only that the band has matured – but their maturation has reshaped my view of what they are capable of and what I love most about them.
The Format have returned with their sophomore full-length in a way that only the literal sound of trumpets can announce. Dog Problems sits as a testament to hard work, blood, sweat, tears, and an unwavering concept that the band carries through to the last note. As of May this reviewer hasn’t found another album that hits all of the right emotional chords and strikes so poignantly at the root of all that he feels is right about music in general. The Format have now released two stellar albums. This feat not only secures them a place in your favorite band list – but it goes beyond even that as they take a clear shot of becoming one of the best bands around in any “scene.”
Dog Problems comes highly recommended for fans of brilliant pop that enjoy a little musical experimentation, great lyrics, and poetic depth. There is so much more to this album then a cursory listen reveals and so much more to this band then “clapping your hands” or “stomping your feet.”
Great, great, band. Great, great, album.