For this week's "On Mondays I listen to..." album review, we will be checking out The Alien Dogs' newest (July 2016) release, Undertow. The five-song EP is the second release by The Alien Dogs, a follow up to their pop-punk EP PointBlank. Fans of PointBlank will be thrilled with The Alien Dogs' evolution of angsty lyrics and punk progressions in Undertow. This time around, The Alien Dogs have brought a surf vibe to the mix, extremely reminiscent of California's West Coast scene
The Alien Dogs are a skate punk, surf rock trio from Grand Rapids, Michigan, featuring Gabe Tower (Guitar/Vocals), Adam Marks (Bass/Backing Vocals), and Mitch Petersen (Drums).
I met the band during a punk show at White's Bar in Saginaw, MI, a few days before the official release of Undertow. I remember The Alien Dogs starting their set with "Plywood", the fourth track off of Undertow. As soon as they began playing, I instantly fell in love with their get-you-on-your-feet songs and entire musical aura. If you ever have the chance, see these guys live. The Alien Dogs are a ton a fun and they put on an excellent show.
(The Alien Dogs - Undertow.)
Undertow was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Rick Jonson at Cold War Studios in Grand Rapids, MI.
The EP begins with the title track "Undertow". Tower's crunchy, distorted guitar starts off the track, with Petersen's pounding drums and Marks' driving bass quickly joining in. "Undertow" is a total surf punk song, with lyrics about "grabbing the boards and heading to the shore". All the instruments, including the vocals, have great tones. The vocals have a scratchy, distorted sound that pairs well with the guitar and melds with the cleaner bass. The drums on "Undertow" are quick and tight with fast snare rolls and lots of floor tom use. (My favorite!) At 01:25, the song is taken over with a pulsing bass riff and primal vocal yells/noises, which lead into a screaming guitar solo. So much fuzz- I love it!
"DON'T GET CAUGHT IN THE UNDERTOW!"
"Quit fucking with my head, to me you're better off dead, and to this day I still can't find the reason why you're still locked inside my head."
"Dropout" is the second track on Undertow, and probably the heaviest song on the EP. At only one minute and thirty-one seconds long, "Dropout" is a fast punk ode to high school sucking and all the voices in your head that just won't shut up. The song begins with Tower's frustrated lyrics and a heavy riff that rapidly speeds up into a spiral of paranoia. Although it's a short song, don't worry- we still get that fuzzy guitar in a quick solo, with time for one more chorus refrain.
"Cali' Bummin'" is another surf punk song, as referenced in the title. The lyrics in this song take you to California, bummin' along the beach. The backing vocals round out the song. At 01:25, the guitar gives a bit of feedback and "Cali' Bummin'" transforms from its skater sound to a bit heavier jam. The drums do a great job at this point, giving juxtaposition to earlier moments in the song.
"Beach to the left, Wavves to my right, six bucks in my pocket on a summer night as we walk along the shore wanting 6 dollars more so I can trip the fuck back into 1994."
As I mentioned above, "Plywood" is the first The Alien Dogs song that I ever experienced. It's a spaced out, hypnotizing song that eventually turns into a B-52s-esque surf riff. Everything that I love. Although there are only six lines of lyrics, the words open the listener up to an entire universe.
"Welcome to the show,
My name is Captain Joe.
I am a space ranger.
Welcome to the scene,
My name is Rosaline.
I am a dream maker."
The reverberated and delayed guitar pulls the listener under the waves of "Plywood". The vocals have a longing inflection that leaves the listener begging for more. I love the dreamy beginning and the transition into a rocking surf riff. While the guitar line sits on top, listen closely to the solid bass work underneath. "Plywood" is my favorite song on The Alien Dogs' Undertow EP.
"Ready For Death" is the final song on The Alien Dogs' Undertow. It brings the band's pop-punk attitude full circle, while still sticking to the album's themes. The guitar, drums, and bass flow together to create the familiar pop-punk feeling of bands like Blink-182 or Green Day. Although the song's lyrics are melancholic, "Ready For Death" has an energy that makes the listener want to dance. By singing the song to "Madison", the story becomes much more intimate and relatable.
"Here we go again I'm sinking, you left me here without a trace, my self esteem is slowly shrinking, I hope to see you soon again one day. Madison."
I am in love with Undertow! While some albums are a collection of songs, Undertow is a flowing story. The Alien Dogs clearly wrote the songs with the finished product in mind.
The trio may be from Michigan, but you would never guess it. There is no question that they know what they are doing in the skate/surf punk world. I am so excited to see what they create next.