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Under and Under

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Album Review

Blank Dogs' backstory was kept a secret for the early stages of his career, and his enigmatic stature filled the curiosity of bloggers and magazine columnists, who became infatuated with the idea of a mysterious persona possessed by a seemingly inexhaustible creative spirit. Of course he couldn't keep up the hidden identity charade forever, but Mike Sniper (probably not his real surname), the meek wizard behind the Blank Dogs curtain, maintained his anonymity for the better part of two years by hiding his face in wraps and bandages for press shots. It may sound like a cheap gimmick for the sake of gaining attention, but his intentions were pure: he hoped to avoid getting pigeon-holed as just another lo-fi/noise pop artist from the overplayed musical hotbed of Brooklyn. This desire to be seen as a unique individual and not just a product of his environment comes through full force in his music. There's no confusing the inscrutable sound of Blank Dogs. It is what it is; singular and unwavering. Like his last LP, On Two Sides, Under and Under is an obscured, murky muddle of home recorded guitar, bass, synthesizers, and organ beats, all flattened by lots of distortion. This may all sound familiar for those keeping up with the trend of "No-fi," the "Shitgaze," ahem, movement, or whatever you wish to coin the purposely raw recording style, but while Blank Dogs' music is likely to gain comparisons to Wavves, Psychedelic Horseshit, and his In the Red labelmates Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls (who both appear on the album), Under and Under has a slightly different aesthetic. Instead of drawing from sounds of the '60s with chamber reverbs and garage guitars, the bulk of Blank Dogs' songs are musically rooted in early '80s post-punk, goth, and new wave. The bassline of "Setting Fire to Your House" could be lifted from the Cure's "Jumping Someone Else's Train," and "The New Things" shines with Gary Numan synths and a Martin Hannett "recorded in a silo" sheen. It's a fair guess that he has a workshop full of chorus, flange, and delay pedals from that era at his disposal — considering that every instrument and vocal line is run through one effect or another, making most of the album unintelligible or indecipherable — but it's just that limitless, everything-including-the-kitchen-sink way of working that makes Blank Dogs so special and interesting. It also doesn't hurt that he has hooks to spare.


Born: Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

To call the one-man project Blank Dogs prolific is a bit of an understatement. Although Blank Dogs releases have been of the small-potatoes variety (being issued on a number of small independent labels), they have been numerous and critically well received: 2007 saw a number of the project's releases on critical best-of lists, and more was sure to come in 2008, as Blank Dogs had prepared a slate of a dozen releases for that year. This rather unbelievable list included some 7" EPs, an untitled full-length,...
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Under and Under, Blank Dogs
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