That Dog’s debut eponymous album is just the epitome of perfection to me. The combination of indie pop and strange classical and jazz elements is still quite unlike anything I’ve heard. The band are perhaps like a less brutal Miranda Sex Garden, or softer Slits or Raincoats. Songs- and harmonies- don’t quite go where they are supposed to go.
Anna Waronker on lead vocals and guitar and Tony Maxwell on drums brought the indie side, but Rachel Haden on bass and vocals and Petra Haden’s vocals and sinewy violin playing are what fleshed out the unique quality. They were like part of a school choir gone rogue and experimental. They were at once angelic and spiky.
The band formed in Anna’s bedroom and played around with ‘short punk songs about boys’. It’s this slightly anarchic spirit that permeates through the record.
Lyrically too, the band are pretty left- field and funny. One minute, they’re ruminating on ‘nice Jewish boys’, Cher and her hair, horoscopes and tattooed punk teens on Punk Rock Girl: ‘With her gold dress and black roots and tattoo of God, she’s the next best thing to Athena’. But my favourite line is in Paid Programming, a rumination about bad cable TV: ‘I’d like to see the vacuuming haircut machine going mainstream’.
With music in the That Dog family (some of the band’s parents are jazz musicians) and the eclectic influences, it was perhaps inevitable that they would collaborate with Beck. And they have, on lovely songs like Totally Confused.
But this first record inhabits its own little eccentric and beautiful universe. There’s nothing else quite like it- no wonder Patrick Wolf is a fan.