Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog
Bark Your Head Off, Dog is another great Hop Along album, intimate and grand in a way only few can do
Frances Quinlan’s voice has been Hop Along’s not-so-secret weapon since they formed. It scratches, strains, coos and bleats in a way that appears wild and unkempt, but conveying such specificity of emotion that means it couldn’t possibly be accidental. She repeats the line 'Strange to be shaped by such strange men' throughout Bark Your Head Off, Dog. Each time, it hits with a new shade of frustration, confusion or resignation. Her melodies are downright outrageous, with their tumbling runs, frenetic note jumps and jazzy inflections. That they manage to be catchy and experimental is a testament to her skill. But let’s take a moment to appreciate the other brilliant aspects of Hop Along, because there are many, and they’re fully flexed on this new album.
For one, the band are the tightest they’ve ever been, instrumentally. The album is crammed full of ideas, many songs packing multiple phases into what are brief indie rock songs. Somehow, they remain clear. The Fox in Motion spills into a groovy jam, each member finding space to play, still adding to the heady energy of the track.
Two – they’ve mastered their sound without getting too comfortable. Bark Your Head Off, Dog is a restless album that contains the band’s poppiest moments, like the blissful indie-disco of How Simple, and their most abstract and challenging, like the Joanna Newsom-channelling freak-folk of Not Abel. They thrive in both, expanding their sound without losing any of the character or cohesion.
Then there’s their real secret weapon – Quinlan’s lyrics. Each song here works as its own neat story, told through powerful observations of personal occurrences. On How Simple, the line 'We were covered in each other’s snot in my childhood bed' captures the messy, lustful innocence of the beginning of a relationship as she attempts to come to terms with its end. Much of the album is larger in scope, but Quinlan never loses sight of the power of detail – when to show them and obscure them. On How You Got Your Limp, she wrestles with the power men wield without repercussions, repeating 'I can hear you, the whole bar can,' letting us fill in the blanks. Bark Your Head Off, Dog is another great Hop Along album, intimate and grand in a way only few can do.
Listen to: The Fox in Motion, How Simple, How You Got Your Limp